Billie Jean King: Allowing coaches to signal from stands a ‘no brainer’

February 13, 2020
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    Billie Jean King

    Tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King won 12 Grand Slam singles titles during her career

    Billie Jean King says allowing coaches to signal instructions to players during Women’s Tennis Association matches is a “no-brainer”.

    The WTA is to trial a system at this month’s Dubai Duty Free Championship whereby coaches can signal to players during the match.

    King believes this coaching will create media interest and talking points.

    “I have always been for it [coaching on the court],” said King, a winner of 12 Grand Slam singles titles.

    “Look at baseball. They have a first-base coach and a third-base coach, the coaches are giving all these signals, squeezing their nose or whatever and making all these signals. It’s fascinating for people,” added King, who also won 16 Grand Slam titles in doubles.

    “They make documentaries on these coaches. It’s just a story to promote our sport and anything we can do to promote it is a good thing, it’s a no-brainer.”

    Players on the WTA tour are only permitted to summon their coaches during a changeover once per set – and not in Grand Slams – while the men’s ATP Tour does not allow it at all.

    Currently, players can receive a code violation for taking ‘coaching’ from the stands, as occurred during the 2018 US Open final when the umpire deemed that Serena Williams’ coach had made a gesture.

    King, who was awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award for her services to tennis in 2018, wants the sport to encourage coaches to become “part of the narrative” in comparison to other disciplines where “every coach is a story”.

    “We want more people to go into coaching, and you have to see it to be it,” the 76-year-old American said.

    “If they are sitting up in the stands no one knows who they are.”

    “Let’s just look at the sports in the United States. They talk about the coaches in college and pro sports as much as they talk about the players. We don’t do that for our sport and we are losing out on column inches, and time and media.”

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