The Australian Open could be the first grand slam to allow on-court coaching in a move that could avoid a repeat of the ugly row between Serena Williams and the chair umpire at the US Open.
Tennis Australia boss and tournament director Craig Tiley flagged the possible rule change at the launch of the 2019 Australian Open in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Among other changes, prize money has been increased to $60.5 million – up 10 per cent – but some ticket prices are down for next year’s tournament.
Tiley said that tennis chiefs would meet later this month in Singapore to decide on a position regarding coaching at grand slams.
Following trials in qualifying at this year’s Open and US Open, he said the sport needed clarity and consistency on the issue.
The first violation given to Williams that sparked her Flushing Meadows meltdown was for coaching, which isn’t allowed during any men’s matches but is permitted on the women’s tour except in grand slam tournaments.
“We’re getting the global governing bodies – the ATP, WTA and ITF – and the grand slams together to talk about our approach to coaching,” Tiley said.
“I think it’s really important that it’s consistent so fans and players don’t get confused on it so hopefully in the coming weeks we are able to make an announcement on our position.”
Tiley said that the Australian Open had recently conducted a player review, led by retired doubles specialist Casey Dellacqua and US Open quarter-finalist John Millman. More than 100 top players were interviewed.
“We’ve had a team out there interviewing them and the players too want some consistency on coaching and we’d like to be able to lead the way on that,” Tiley said.
Tiley added that the Melbourne Park tournament would be also helping out officials by next year providing an electronic review system and a 25-second serve clock on all 16 match courts.
The tournament will also tweak its heat policy.
“We have an extreme heat policy and we’re working towards an extreme heat index which will be a little different,” Tiley said.
“The research we’ve had has been sport in general and we’ve just completed some research specifically for tennis so that’s going to be concluded in the coming weeks and it will be easier to understand.”
Changes to the 2019 Australian Open tournament
* Prize money up 10 per cent to $60.5 million
* 25-second serve clock for all main draw matches
* Electronic review system on all 16 match courts
* Increased qualifying draw for women, from 96 to 128 players with qualifying to start January 8
* Maintaining 32 seeds in the men’s and women’s main draw
* Extreme heat index to replace extreme heat policy
* Cut in the entry level price of tickets to Margaret Court Arena and Rod Laver, reduced by $15 to $62, while the cost of tickets to the men’s and women’s final slashed by a third.