Maria Sharapova took a remarkable victory over Justine Henin in the 2006 US Open final to claim her only title at Flushing Meadows but she attracted some controversy as she was accused of benefiting from on-court coaching
Maria Sharapova claimed her one and only US Open title back in 2006 aged 19 but that triumph wasn’t without controversy.
She defeated Justine Henin in straight sets in the final at Flushing Meadows, to capture the second of her five Grand Slam tennis titles, but as she enjoyed a run to the title Sharapova was also asked to address the apparent signals she received from her father and her hitting partner during matches at the Open, including holding up four fingers or waving a banana. The Russian offered an explanation whereby she sometimes forgets to hydrate, and any hand signals from her team were to remind her to drink fluids.
When asked about it again after the final, Sharapova deflected the question, saying it wasn’t what she wanted to be talking about on a night she earned another major championship. “I believe, at the end of the day, personally, my life is not about a banana,” Sharapova said post-match. “It’s not about what I wear. It’s not about the friends that I have.
“My career right now is about winning a tennis match. And right now, I’m sitting here as a U.S. Open champion, and the last thing I think people need to worry about is a banana.”
For the first time, coaching from the stands is to be allowed on a trial basis at this year’s US Open, a move that has split the locker room. Verbal and non-verbal coaching will be allowed provided it does not interrupt play or hinder the opponent, with verbal coaching only permitted when the player is at the same end of the court.
“I would say I prefer the traditional way of one versus one,” commented Cam Norrie, who is against the decision. “But it doesn’t change much for me, I’m not going to use it too much.”
American Taylor Fritz went further, declaring that he ‘hates’ the trial: “I think that figuring it out for yourself on the court is a massive part of our sport,” he shared. “You have to change things up for yourself, figure out yourself what’s going on, adjust to what the opponent’s doing.” Tsitsipas, a long-time advocate for on-court coaching, added: “My coach has not been as discreet as other coaches, but it has been always happening.
“I’ve gotten a lot of coaching violations, which I found unfair. But now that it’s legalised, I’m more than happy I won’t have to deal with referees that are so strict and want to kind of ruin the game. Trust me, it’s happening with almost every single player. The fact that it’s legalised now is going to make tennis a bit more peaceful, make players concentrate more on the game, less on different kind of nonsense.”
Defending US Open champion Daniil Medvedev meanwhile, was sceptical regarding how much impact the rule change will have both on himself and the game as a whole. “I was never against coaching but I know I’m not really going to use it with my coach because we know how we work together,” the world number one said.
“Maybe there’s going to be one match of 10 or 20 where he’s going to try to introduce something during the match. But most of the time we are not going to need it as a pair on the court.”