September 10, 2018 / 3:09 AM / 10 days ago

USTA to review policies after U.S. Open umpire controversies

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States Tennis Association (USTA) said on Sunday it would undertake a review of its communication policies after a string of umpiring controversies at the U.S. Open.

Sep 8, 2018; New York, NY, USA; A general view of Arthur Ashe Stadium during the national anthem prior to the match between Serena Williams of the United States and Naomi Osaka of Japan (both not pictured) in the women's final on day thirteen of the 2018 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Swedish umpire Mohamed Lahyani was reprimanded by U.S. Open organizers for going “beyond protocol” when he climbed down from his chair to give Nick Kyrgios a mid-match pep talk during his second-round match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Umpire Christian Rask then came in for criticism after he handed a code violation to French player Alize Cornet after she removed her shirt on court after realizing it was on backwards.

The tournament subsequently released a statement saying it regretted that she was given a violation.

On Saturday, Serena Williams was handed three penalties during the second set of her championship match against Naomi Osaka, sparking a firestorm of debate.

“Some of these incidents, you know, have prompted us to reflect on the clarity of our own communication to the chair umps,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

“These incidents will prompt us to analyze ways of perhaps instituting some change. We certainly do not want inconsistencies.

“I think it could potentially help everybody if there was some more consistency to this.”

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on Sunday expressed disappointment over the handling of the match between Williams and Osaka.

“(The WTA) is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same. We do not believe that this was done last night,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said.

He also called for coaching, one of the offences for which Williams received a violation, to be permitted, a topic the USTA plans to review.

The USTA’s Widmaier said that the extremely hot temperatures and high humidity, which led officials to introduce a heat rule for both men and women, may have contributed to the confusion.

“The Alize Cornet thing kind of was triggered by the heat but it also brought to the forefront nothing that had ever happened before,” Widmaier said. “It prompted us to say, ‘hey, maybe we’re not being clear here.’”

Mark Kovacs, executive director of the International Tennis Performance Association, said that the officiating controversies at this year’s tournament “brought attention to areas of the sport that need to be addressed” going forward.

“Consistency in the application of the rules is clearly needed,” Kovacs said. “Currently the umpires have a lot of discretion and many times the same offence does not have the same punishment.”

There was more controversy on Sunday when CoCo Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty told reporters they had been denied an opportunity to speak to the crowd after winning the women’s doubles final because officials did not want any delay to the men’s singles final match.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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