Up 6-0, 3-1 and in total control against David Goffin at the ATP World Tour Finals, Grigor Dimitrov received a coaching violation. One of the line judges conveyed to chair umpire Ali Nili that the Bulgarian’s coach Dani Vallverdu was trying to convey messages to his player.
“He told you to use your forehand so I have to give you a coaching violation,” Nili said. As it was the first such instance in the match, Dimitrov was not handed a point penalty but Dimitrov contested the chair umpire’s decision. “Who? Him?” he said, pointing towards his player’s box, alluding that he did not hear whatever his coach was saying. “You may not have heard him but [the line judge] did,” Nili added.
What’s the rule on on-court coaching?
Coaching during matches, although allowed on changeovers on the WTA Tour, is banned at the Grand Slam tournaments and on the ATP Tour. However, players are rarely penalised for infractions. At the recent Next Gen Finals in Milan, players were allowed to interact with their coaches after every set.
How is illegal coaching done?
Some coaches devise elaborate hand signals. Others convey tactical instructions when their player is within earshot.
Once at the Australian Open, TV cameras caught a player repeatedly reaching into his bag to use a BlackBerry-type device at the same time his coach in the stands seen to be using his own BlackBerry-type device.
What happened in the match?
Dimitrov was totally dominating the contest against the Belgian, that’s why it was all the more surprising that, if at all, Vallverdu needed to pass on certain instructions to his player. Whatever it was, Dimitrov brushed aside the controversy and completed the victory with a convincing 6-0 6-2 margin. The Bulgarian, who had beaten Dominic Thiem of Austria in his opening match, thus sealed a spot in the semi-finals of the season-ending tournament.
What do the pros say?
This is kind of an intimate conversation where you feel comfortable that you communicate wirelessly with your coach. I think, if you have a coach, why not try to use him during the match itself.”
– Novak Djokovic
I’m not all for it. I find it kind of cool that in tennis, you know, you’re sort of on your own out there. Not everybody has the same amount of resources for coaching, as well. So I’m not sure if it’s that beneficial.”
– Roger Federer