Monday, November 02, 2009

Wozniacki 'scandal' should serve as end to on-court coaching

From: SI
Guilty as hell: Caroline Wozniacki had to answer questions about her match retirement last week in Luxembourg.
A few thoughts from the tennis world ...

For years, many of you have joined me in begging the WTA to euthanize the failed experiment that is "on-court coaching." We may finally get our wish. Though not without the usual whiff of drama.

Playing in Luxembourg last week, Caroline Wozniacki was a few games from beating Anne Kremer in a first-round match. However, an injury was going to prevent Wozniacki from playing her next match. During a changeover, Wozniacki's father/coach instructed her to retire before winning outright -- good form, particularly since Kremer is from Luxembourg.

All good, right? Problem was, he said this in Polish during a changeover and, thanks to on-court coaching, microphones picked up the discourse. Armed with this information, online gamblers quickly bet on Kremer, who did in fact advance when Wozniacki retired leading 7-5, 5-0. The anti-integrity cops were summoned and suddenly this was a big story.

Maybe a gambler can explain this to me: What's the problem? Aren't gamblers always looking for an incremental edge, a piece of information that tips the odds in their favor? There was no "inside information," since anyone watching the match was privy to the dad's instructions. So long as neither Wozniacki nor her father was complicit -- and there's no indication they were -- why is this any different from an attentive viewer noticing a player limping or changing her strings and betting accordingly? Lastly, how did the WTA not anticipate that coaches wired for sound during matches might impart information relevant to gamblers?

Whatever, this "scandal" was the dominant tennis news this week. If the upshot is the WTA finally gives the heave-ho to on-court coaching, that's great. Too bad it wasn't before one of the more marketable young stars had to defend her honor when, it appears, she did nothing wrong.