A war of words has erupted on social media between Aussie tennis legend Todd Woodbridge and Serena Williams’ former coach Patrick Mouratoglou, after it was announced the ATP Tour would be trialling off-court coaching.
Woodbridge hammered Mouratoglou after the coach tweeted ‘Congratulations to the ATP for “legalising” a practice that has been going on at almost every match for decades’.
Under the rule change, players will be allowed to receive instructions from their coaches during matches, with a trial to begin later this year.
Frenchman Mouratoglou, who currently coaches two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep, was at the centre of one of the sport’s most infamous off-court coaching scandals when Williams lost to Naomi Osaka at the 2018 US Open final.
His supposed admission of off-court coaching did not sit well with Woodbridge.
Patrick Mouratoglou (left) is pictured coaching Serena Williams (right) ahead of the 2018 US Open, where the former world No.1 had an infamous clash with the umpire
Aussie tennis legend Todd Woodbridge has slammed Mouratoglou for his tweet
‘This is so disappointing to see that such a high profile coach blatantly admits that he has broken the rules of our sport for so long,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Mouratoglou fired back almost immediately.
‘This is a particularly bad one from you Todd. You have been on tour for a long time. Why do you deny the evidence of the coaching happening every day on the courts? To purposely trying to make me look bad and accusing me. This is disappointing,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘And by the way, learn to read. I never wrote that I was doing what you pretend I wrote.’
Patrick Mouratoglou (left) watches Serena Williams train during the 2021 Australian Open
That Mouratoglou of all coaches was happy to see the ATP trial off-court coaching for all tour events post-Wimbledon clearly irked Woodbridge.
When Mouratoglou was coaching Williams during the 2018 US Open final, she uncharacteristically imploded after she was hit with a code violation when the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, ruled Mouratoglou was coaching from the stands.
Mouratoglou (left) training Williams during the 2021 French Open
She was then handed a game and a point penalty for an ugly meltdown that included smashed rackets and demanding an apology from Ramos – who Williams called a ‘liar’.
Her coach admitted the following year he did gesture towards her during that game, but claimed she didn’t see it, and wouldn’t have gained an advantage.
Todd Woodbridge (left) wins a 1996 Olympic gold medal with doubles partner Mark Woodforde
After the war of words on social media continued to play out, Woodbridge then dropped his mic and left the stage.
‘Well I can honestly say my coaches didn’t coach from the stand,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Woodbridge said he’d never been coached from the stands in his playing days
There has been a mixed response to the ATP’s off-court coaching trial, with Nick Kyrgios disagreeing with Mouratoglou’s belief that it’s a good thing.
‘Completely disagree. Loses one of the only unique traits that no other sport had,’ he wrote on Twitter.
‘The player had to figure things out on his own. That was the beauty of it. What happens if [it’s] a high-profile player versus a low-ranked player who doesn’t have or [can’t] afford a coach?’
Aussie Nick Kyrgios is not a fan of the ATP’s plan to trial off-court coaching after Wimbledon
One of Australia’s greatest ever wheelchair players, David Hall, isn’t a fan of the idea, either.
‘The beauty of tennis was that you had to work your opponent out for yourself. One on one battle. This six month off court coaching trial on ATP tour strips it away for no good reason,’ he wrote on Twitter.
The ATP have trialled aspects of off-court coaching in recent years, and indicated the trial would be evaluated at the end of the season to see whether it becomes a more permanent arrangement.
ATP Tour statement on off-court coaching trial for the rest of 2022
The trial will permit coaching from designated coach seats during qualifying and main draw matches at ATP Tour events, starting from the week of 11 July 2022.
Various coaching rules have been trialled across the sport in recent years, including on-court coaching and coaching via headsets. The announcement brings alignment for the second half of the season across the ATP Tour, US Open and Hologic WTA Tour, where an off-court coaching trial is already in place.
In addition to ensuring consistency across the sport for the benefit of players and fans, the trial aims to create additional points of intrigue and insight to enhance the fan experience.
The trial will be collectively evaluated at the end of the 2022 season.
Off-court coaching will be permitted under the following conditions: