Why Is Coaching During A Match Not Allowed In Tennis?

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As a tennis coach, I can tell you training makes a fundamental difference between success and failure for any player in any game. And, in many contests throughout the world, coaching can be done, both on and off the field.

However, when it comes to tennis, coaching during training is essential for the emotional as well as physical development of a player. Yet, most international level tennis tournaments have regulations that state that players cannot talk to their coaches during a match.

So, let’s take an in-depth look at the law that pertains to no coaching during tennis matches and understand why these laws have been put in place. Also, we’ll look at the diverging rules in place in tennis tournaments regarding coaching during games.

Why Is Coaching Not Allowed In Tennis During A Match?

Many tennis players at the beginner level have to put up with barely any rules or regulations. But, the scene takes a drastic turn at tennis matches played at international levels. Furthermore, each tournament seems to have different rules. Hence, players don’t understand the various rules regarding tennis and therefore become confused. 

As an instructor, allow me the chance to simplify the concept. There isn’t such thing as a single universal tennis rule that applies to the various tournaments. Different tennis tournaments have distinct rules. 

In many tennis tournaments, male players aren’t allowed to talk to their coaches. On the other hand, female tennis players are given the privilege of one on-court coaching session per set in non-Grand Slam tournaments. 

In Grand Slam tournaments, no guidance from instructors is allowed for men or women during a match. Yet, the rules for coaching for males and females are completely flipped during college tennis events, or international competitions such as the Davis Cup or Fed Cup. 

The idea behind having no coaching during tennis matches is related to the fact that many top-notch players can afford to have the best of help from highly experienced coaches. During matches, the insight of these coaches can clearly lead to amplified strategic prowess in technique and motivation. This can have a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game. 

But, not all players can hire such qualified instructors. Hence, the law prohibiting coaching during matches was fundamentally placed to level the playing field and provide equal opportunity to all players.

What Are The Rules About Coaching During A Tennis Match?

The laws governing coaching during tennis matches vary. So, let’s view the laws of coaching of each tournament to get a better idea of what can be done during games.

ATP On-Court Coaching Rules

The Association Of Tennis Professionals, a.k.a ATP, is responsible for most major men’s tennis tournaments, except Grand Slams. Now, this body of tennis professionals has the authority to set specific rules for these tournaments. 

Any male tennis player wanting to participate in ATP tournaments must follow the ATP On-court Coaching rules. According to the ATP rulebook, ‘Players shall not receive coaching during a tournament match. Communication of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach, may be construed as coaching.’

In short, coaches cannot give any instruction to their players inside or outside the court during matches. Not even from the stands.

WTA On-Court Coaching Rules

The WTA stands for Women’s Tennis Association and the parallel of ATP. The WTA is in charge of most major female tennis tournaments except Grand Slams. And, yes, they, too, have rules different from those of ATP. 

In general, WTA rules are pretty similar to those of ATP. But, there is one major exception, WTA allows tennis players to request on-court coaching once per set. Hence, if a player is facing a tough time and needs a change of tactics, she can let the umpire know, and the coach will be able to re-strategize once the next set begins.

But, the coach isn’t allowed to stay on for the next set. The coaching must take place within a given period of 60 – 90 seconds. And, once the time elapses, the coach must leave the court immediately. The same rule applies during double matches where each player can ask for their own coach once per set. 

Also, each time a coach is requested, the communication between player and coach takes place on a microphone. The conversation is audible to everyone, from people in the stands to the audience at home watching the match on their television screens.

Grand Slam On-Court Coaching Rules

The Australian Open, French Open, US Open, and Wimbledon are all Grand Slams. All Grand Slam matches are organized by the ITF, also known as the International Tennis Federation. The ITF has regulations, and according to its rules, coaching isn’t allowed during matches, singles, or doubles.

Davis Cup And Fed Cup On-Court Coaching Rules

The Davis Cup and Fed Cup is a place where players get a chance to represent their countries, and the ITF also manages it. But, in these tournaments, coaching is allowed during matches.

On-Court Coaching Rules In College

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) governs the rules of tennis tournaments taking place in various colleges. And, ITA is relatively lenient in its rules. You see, at the college level, coaching can be done at all times, on and off the court. 

There are no time limitations and no rules against audible or visual communication, and players can have a strategy discussion with coaches even between points. Also, coaches can coach more than one player and change the court whenever they want.

Junior On-Court Coaching Rules

International junior tennis tournaments, including Grand Slams, follow the rules of the ITF. No coaching is allowed during matches for male or female junior players. However, there is no chair umpire or television streaming, and enforcement of the regulations is quite lax.

What Is A Coaching Violation In Tennis, And What Are The Penalties?

If there is any form of communication between the coach and player, audible or visual, when there are laws against coaching during matches, it will be considered a violation. If The umpire witnesses a violation, they will first give a warning. 

If a coaching violation occurs again, the player will lose a point. In the chance of a third breach occurrence, a game of penalty will happen. A game of penalty means that the player loses the game entirely due to a violation. 

If repeated violations happen, the umpire can also ask for the coach to be removed from the stand. Players are also made to pay penalties for violations; some of these fines go up to $5,000.

Can Players Talk To Their Coaches During Bathroom Breaks Or Game Delays?

Players are allowed to leave the field for bathroom breaks. But, when the regulations state that no coaching is allowed during matches, the players are accompanied by tournament officials to the bathroom during such matches.

On the other hand, during WTA matches, when players take a bathroom break, they forfeit the right to on-court coaching opportunity during that set. 

However, the rules differ when a delay to the game occurs. When both players are required to leave the field due to substantial rain, they can speak to their coaches until the match resumes.

The Tie-Breaker

There aren’t many rules to follow, except those needed to play a fair game of tennis at the local junior or college level. Hence, players aren’t penalized for violations during these tennis matches. However, tennis tournaments become a bit more intense when you go from local to international level. 

In such circumstances, the coaches usually alert the players to the rules and regulations involving each tournament. But, it is wise for individual players to keep up-to-date about the specific set of rules of most games they are interested in participating in to avoid making violations.

Brenton Barker
Brenton Barker
Brenton holds a Degree in Sports Coaching from the University of Delaware and was the former Head Advisor for the Japanese Government's Sports Science Institute. He has held Managerial and Head Coaching roles with Australia's National Governing Body, Tennis Australia, and served on the Dunlop International Sports Advisory Board for eight years. Brenton currently consults with several professional athletes and clients in the areas of Self-Accountability, Health, and Goal Orientation.