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Old 01-27-2010, 07:42 PM   #1
paydayuscf

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Default NBC Sports: Stop Henin's Cheating
Henin too reliant on illegal in-game coaching
Umpires need to intervene during obvious instances of illegal coaching

By James Martin

It's been refreshing to watch Justine Henin win round after round at the Australian Open. She's got the most complete game in women's tennis, and yet she's still not content to play the same-old. Henin is trying to change her style of play, hitting more aggressive serves and finishing more points at net, among other things. But while we're all marveling at the new-and-improving Henin, one thing hasn't changed with the Belgian: Her reliance on her coach, Carlos Rodriguez.

The two have always had an exceptionally strong bond, much like a father-daughter relationship. Before she left the game, Henin made a habit of looking over to Rodriguez after virtually every point as if a psychic current ran directly between them. Sometimes she would flash a fist pump, other times she would glance his way in an attempt to find moral support.

As her run Down Under has demonstrated, Henin still relies on Rodriguez. If anything, she appears to be depending on him more than ever. And Rodriguez has been none-too-shy about helping her out. In tennis, of course, on-court coaching is illegal at the Grand Slams. But that hasn't stopped Rodriguez from blatantly signaling and communicating with his charge. He doesn't even attempt to disguise his gestures.

In Henin's quarterfinal match against Nadia Petrova, Rodriguez was shown on television motioning a toss, and then moving his other hand as if to say, "move your feet," when Henin prepared to return the ball. On the next point, Petrova tossed the ball for a slice serve while Henin moved to her right to cut off the ball.

The signaling was so conspicuous that commentator Martina Navratilova had no choice but to call out Henin for receiving illegal coaching. But the chair umpire either didn't notice or didn't care. A similar scene played out in a previous Henin match, when it appeared that Rodriguez was trying to help Henin with her wayward service toss.

Coaching from the stands is nothing new. Back in the day, Ion Tiriac and one of his players, Guillermo Vilas, developed a set of signals so Tiriac could dispense advise without being noticed. More recently, at the 2006 U.S. Open, who could forget when Maria Sharapova's father, Yuri, infamously held up a banana on two occasions in an apparent reminder to eat. Her hitting partner, Michael Joyce, was also caught on camera during the tournament flashing a four-finger signal. There are countless other examples; Henin is just the most recent.

Henin's behavior does illuminate how tennis can make its practitioners feel completely isolated, alone, lost. You won't find a more driven and talented player than the pint-sized Belgian, yet even she feels compelled to seek continual support during a match.

Problem is, while the women's tour has experimented with on-court coaching, it's still prohibited at the majors (and on the men's tour). In fact, it's one of the game's most distinguishing features, one that separates it from other sports—players must figure out how to win on their own terms without outside help—and thus it's one of the game's most cherished rules, at least among traditionalists. But the rule is clearly not being enforced. (Neither is the time taken between points, but that's another point for another column.) Perhaps it's too much to ask the chair umpire to watch each player's box for hand signals and blatant communication between coach and player. If so, an extra official is needed to keep an eye on each coach, and to alert the chair when a coach crosses the line between exhorting his or her player and mapping out Xs and Os. At that point, the chair can first warn the player, then follow up with a point penalty and default. Illegal coaching would be snuffed out in a hurry.

Or, if you like, tennis could just throw up its hands and allow all communication during a match.

But to continue to turn a blind eye to such blatant coaching makes a mockery of the rule and chips away at the game's integrity.

Watching Henin Down Under has made me all the more appreciative of a recent comment by Serena and Venus Williams' mother and coach, Oracene. She says she'll be giving up her spot in the player's box for good before her daughters retire, citing boredom as the chief reason. "I go to sleep [watching Serena and Venus play] that's why I wear the sunglasses."

There's someone who's got the right view of on-court coaching.

http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/351020...sports-tennis/
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:45 PM   #2
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Glad to see the mainstream press picking up on this. It's so blatant, and a huge violation of the rules. Be interesting to see if 1) they show it happening tonight and 2) if so, will they finally do something to stop it.
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:46 PM   #3
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Allez!
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:52 PM   #4
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I couldn't care less...
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:58 PM   #5
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They are right. But, it's a decades old problem. Hire an extra official just to watch the players' boxes? Lol.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:13 PM   #6
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I really couldn't care less, either. But why focus just on Henin? Last night, Azarenka told her coaches to speak up because she couldn't hear them!
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:13 PM   #7
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I couldn't care less...
At this point, I agree.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:23 PM   #8
paydayuscf

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They either need to just abandon the rule, or enforce it. But stop this "unenforced rule" stuff. It opens the sport to criticism, and it is not fair to those players who stick to the rules on court.

They finally have wised up with appearance fees, hopefully they will address this next.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:28 PM   #9
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I really couldn't care less, either. But why focus just on Henin? Last night, Azarenka told her coaches to speak up because she couldn't hear them!
Yeah, it really pisses me off that only Justine and Maria get in trouble for this when I've seen EVERY PLAYER I've watched live get some sort coaching from the stands.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:35 PM   #10
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How about not allowing coaches or hitting partners in the stadium during their charge's matches? Only parents and family, and if a parent or family member is an official coach, then he or she shouldn't be allowed in the stadium, either. I realize that would be a mean thing to do to, say, Oracene Price... Whose only coaching transgression I've ever seen was a few years ago when she screamed "Get out of Melbourne!" But if it would help solve the problem, then I'm all for it.

I can understand why younger players do it. But more experienced players should be ashamed of themselves. They should be able to stand on their own during a match.

::

The only other option is to start handing out suspensions to certain coaches/members of the entourage on a case by case basis... Starting with Carlos Rodriguez and Michael Joyce.
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:37 PM   #11
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I don't see a real problem therefore there is no need for a solution either
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:38 PM   #12
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Last night, Azarenka told her coaches to speak up because she couldn't hear them!
Haha, really?
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Old 01-27-2010, 08:40 PM   #13
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Haha, really?
According to Pammy
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Old 01-27-2010, 09:05 PM   #14
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Haha, really?
Yep, in the 3rd set while Serena was on "fire"
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Old 01-27-2010, 09:30 PM   #15
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I have seen lots of live coaching too. Atsmaller tournaments you can sit on the bench right beside the coaches giving tidbits of advice often in foreign tongues. It will not be stopped so it should just not be a rule as long as they are not courtside in conference. It just appears more blantantly with Justine because every living moment she is on camera her eyes are darting madly peripherally to wherever Carlos is.

She would be the perfect casting call for the eyeballs behind a hanging painting in a Scooby Doo film.
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:00 PM   #16
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I'm of the "what good is a rule if it's not going to be enforced" camp. Many 'rules' (I use the term loosely) are blatantly ignored in our favorite sport. Not just this one.

I think if it's a rule, it should be enforced. If it's not going to be enforced than get rid of it.

There is much wrong with professional tennis these days. This is just one thing in a long list.
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:14 PM   #17
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She would be the perfect casting call for the eyeballs behind a hanging painting in a Scooby Doo film.
LOL.

She's been doing it a lot less this time around, I think.
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:42 PM   #18
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I really couldn't care less, either. But why focus just on Henin? Last night, Azarenka told her coaches to speak up because she couldn't hear them!
That was hilarious.
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Old 01-27-2010, 10:45 PM   #19
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Enforce the rules or abandon them.

Justine's incessant reliance on Carlos is one of the reasons why I refuse to consider her mentally tough. A fighter, yes. But tough? Not in my view.
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Old 01-27-2010, 11:12 PM   #20
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I am REALLY hoping to run into Justine in a presser at some point this year to get into this line of questioning with her. Because I can't remember everybody ever doing so, and it's ridiculous.
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