Top players cool toward on-court coaching

Tuesday, October 17th 2006, 9:54 am
By: News On 6

ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) _ Amelie Mauresmo isn't planning to take advantage of on-court coaching at the Zurich Open, one of the five tournaments this season where the WTA is testing out the idea.

Maria Sharapova wasn't even aware she was allowed to.

``Are they're doing that here? I didn't know,'' Sharapova said Tuesday.

In-match coaching has been barred from ATP, WTA and Grand Slam tournaments. But in an attempt to make tennis more fan friendly, the women's tour tried on-court coaching this season in Montreal; New Haven, Connecticut; and Stuttgart, Germany.

Players may request their coach on court once per set as well as during a set break. Coaching time-outs are conducted during the time allowed for changeovers, and those called between sets are limited to regular mid-set intervals.

Coaches wear microphones so TV viewers can hear the consultations, but many top players dislike the concept of coaching during the match.

``I'm not favorable to that system,'' Mauresmo said. ``I think the very essence of tennis historically _ and perhaps I'm a little conservative when it comes to changing the rules of tennis _ is finding the keys and solutions oneself on the court. It's what makes the beauty of the sport. It's saying, 'I'm alone. What do I do?'

``To have outside help is a bit of a shame for that aspect of the game.''

Sharapova, like Mauresmo, said she would forgo help from her coach this week unless she was ``desperate.''

``I don't support it. Our sport is an individual sport and you play by instinct,'' Sharapova said. ``That's what makes it so good, is that you're the one who has to decide what you're going to do. If you're calling your coach down, it's a little strange. It's like you're telling your opponent, 'I need some help.'''

Sharapova was at the center of controversy for receiving help from her father Yuri and hitting partner Mike Joyce at this year's U.S. Open, where on-court coaching is forbidden. The two men sent apparent signals to her, including holding up four fingers or waving a banana.

After winning the tournament, Sharapova and she sometimes forgets to drink as much as she should to stay hydrated, and the hand signals were meant as a reminder.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded third in Zurich, was a little more receptive to the idea of on-court coaching.

``It's something new and we need to test it,'' Kuznetsova said. ``It's good to try things that can bring more fans to tennis and make it more fun to watch on TV.

``But I'm not sure it will help,'' she added. ``I already tried it and it's really confusing. I'm there thinking and worrying, 'Should I call my coach for help or not?' I need to play a couple of tournaments like this.''

Zurich is the fourth event where on-court coaching is allowed. The fifth will be in Linz, Austria, next week.