Everyone hates grey. It’s non-descript and says nothing.

Sporting disputes frequently arise when the rules ‘say nothing’. 

Grey areas.  

Consider Serena Williams. Seeking her 24th grand slam in the US Open final two weeks ago.  In front of her home crowd, and baby daughter. Prime time Saturday night TV.

The umpire interpreted a grey area of the rules and imposed penalties on her.  She reacted badly and lost. 

The umpire said her coach had used hand signals to coach her during the match, which is against the rules.

  • How could the umpire be sure it was coaching?
  • How can that rule be consistently applied?

After the match, Williams accuses the umpire of racism and sexism.

The spotlight is shone on tennis.

  • The ITF (world tennis’ governing body) backs the umpire.
  • The WTA (governing body for the women’s tennis tour) back Williams

What do the rules actually say?

Therein lies the problem.

There’s the Grand Slam Rulebook, the ITF Rulebook and the WTA Rulebook. They all say something different.

  1. The 2018 Grand Slam Rulebook states that Players shall not receive coaching during a Grand Slam match (including the warm-up). Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching.
  2. The 2018 ITF Rules of Tennis allow Sanctioning bodies (i.e. the WTA) to apply to the ITF to have on-court coaching allowed.
  3. The 2018 WTA Rules allow on court coaching at its Tour-level events.


Rules should be black and white - Nobody likes grey.