Hewitt and Henman find fault with call to allow coaching from the sidelines

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Leading players have backed up Nick Bollettieri's contention that illegal coaching from the sidelines is widespread in tennis. However, his proposal that coaches should be allowed to work with their charges during matches is winning only limited support.

Bollettieri, who spent 25 years as a travelling coach and now runs one of the world's most successful tennis academies, explained in The Independent this week how he had used discreet signals to communicate with players. He said he believed the rules should either be relaxed or applied more tightly.

Lleyton Hewitt, speaking here at the French Open, said: "There have been times in the past where I'm sure coaches have been giving little signals or whatever at the back of the court. There's not a whole heap you can do about it. At the end of the day, their player still has to go out there and execute, though it's obviously a slight advantage if they are getting some help.

"A coach sees things from a different perspective in a match. In the stands, when I watch other guys play, you can probably work things out a little bit better than when you're actually out there playing.

"I don't think it should be allowed. The great thing about our sport is that once you're out there facing your opponent you have to work it out for yourself. A lot of guys in the past have won matches because they're able to work out ways of beating their opponents on their own out there."

Tim Henman agreed. "Once you're on the court it's you against your opponent," he said. "I think that's the way it should be. If someone gives you a signal, for example saying you should serve to your opponent's backhand, is that really going to have that big an impact on the match? I wouldn't have thought so.

"But does it go on? Yes, absolutely it goes on. It doesn't bother me, but I wouldn't think it's something that we should start tinkering with. I think there are much bigger issues that we need to be worried about in tennis than coaching."

Martina Hingis, however, indicated she would not oppose a change. "It's nice to have somebody sitting there for you in the way that they're allowed in the Davis Cup and Fed Cup," she said. "It's good to be able to talk about your strategy in a match.

"It would probably brighten up the game. Even when I played Team Tennis last year I enjoyed having my team members there encouraging me. It's an idea that could happen."

Bollettieri said that he respected the views of those who opposed his call for change but suggested that the players should be polled on the subject.

"Having worked with players of every level over the past 50 years, I know how different each one can be," he said in a statement.

"I think that in any sport where a player is coached during competition, it is still up to them as an athlete to make it happen."