first_img DEFINING COMMUNICATION It is sad that the 2018 US Open women’s tennis final has grabbed the headlines more for the umpiring decisions of Carlos Ramos and then the rant by Serena Williams, than for the brilliant tennis played by 20-year-old Naomi Osaka. She became the first Japanese to win a tennis Grand Slam and has already demonstrated that she has what it takes to become the next big thing in the sport. Serena’s outburst about sexism may or may not be credible, but it does not make her behaviour any more acceptable. How she behaved was wrong! I can’t condone her behaviour, but I feel her angry outbursts should have the effect of forcing the authorities to re-examine the rule about coaching. The rule about not coaching in a tennis Grand Slam is simply stupid and makes absolutely no sense. What harm could there possibly be for a coach to give tips to his player during a game? How on Earth does that detract from a game? Many have said that umpire Ramos was merely sticking to the letter of the law when he cited Serena for a coaching violation after he interpreted the hand signals by coach Mouratoglou to be him trying to pass on instructions. Here is where the thing gets interesting, though. The tennis rules states that “communication of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching”. The term “communication” simply means “exchange of information”. In other words for communication to be taking place, it must involve at least two people. Mouratoglou may have been attempting to coach, but strictly speaking, it can’t be considered coaching, unless Serena acknowledged the instructions and then proceeded to act upon them. The umpire saw the signals by the coach, but unless he was convinced that Serena was receiving the information, then he should never have made the violation call. To give a player a warning for something her coach did just doesn’t make sense and is completely unfair. I feel that, without evidence that Serena was seeing and acknowledging the coaching instructions, then it was the coach, not Serena, who should have been warned. Where the plot thickens, however, is when Mouratoglou not only admitted he was trying to coach her, but then made the damning statement that this was commonplace in the game and that Osaka’s coach was doing the same. That is a very serious accusation, but it has been met with deafening silence by the accused parties. If Sascha Bajin or Osaka herself has denied that accusation from Serena’s coach, I am yet to hear it! Is it that Osaka’s coach was a lot more subtle with whatever he was doing or was the umpire more keen to look at Serena’s coach? Surely their silence on the issue leaves us to draw only one conclusion! What makes the whole thing even more fascinating is that Serena and her coach are directly contradicting each other. Serena in snapping at the umpire said, “You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life.” Her coach, however, insists that coaching during games takes is done by 100 per cent of the coaches, 100 per cent of the time, clearly including himself in the mix! Mouratoglou has been coach-ing Serena for over six years. How do we juxtapose his statement that all coaches coach all the time with Serena’s statement that she has never cheated, in effect saying she has never received coaching during a game ever. Either Serena or her coach is lying. Both positions cannot co-exist. The decision as to who to believe, I leave to you. All sports go through rule changes from time to time, usually after highly-publicised issues like this, the tennis federation must act now. Get rid of the no-coaching rule. It makes no sense and will only lead to more contentious issues like this in the future. – Orville Higgins is a sports commentator and media personality.last_img