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Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula have responded after compatriot Frances Tiafoe called for a major change to the rules in tennis. The ATP world No 14 claimed that fans should be able to “come and go” during a match like basketball games. The two top 10 WTA stars agreed with Tiafoe’s proposal but thought there needed to be some restrictions that didn’t distract players.
Tiafoe has sparked a debate after claiming that spectators deserved more freedom while watching a match with the exception of some tournaments like Wimbledon. “I think fans should be able to come and go and move around and speak during matches. Imagine going to a basketball game and not saying anything,” the 25-year-old told Forbes.
Fans have since responded and opinion is split – with some wanting to try the NBA-style rule to attract new audiences while others wanted tradition maintained. Two of Tiafoe’s fellow American pros have now weighed in, with Gauff sharing her experience of playing through noise and as both women said there would have to be some limits to stop players from getting distracted.
“I saw what he said,” the world No 6 said. “I will say I did an exhibition with Ash Barty actually. We did have some music playing for part of the exhibition. It definitely does affect I guess the way you track the ball and the sound of it, for sure.”
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But Gauff did agree with Tiafoe’s suggestion that there shouldn’t be total silence, admitting that she was taught not to be put off by noise. The 19-year-old continued: “I don’t know if we’ll be able to do, like, full music. I’ve always said tennis doesn’t need to be completely silent. Also growing up, I played at Pompey Park. They would always have baseball games, basketball practice, swimming. It was so loud over there.
“My dad was like, I never want to hear you complain about noise during a match. This is when I was like eight or nine. I’m not the particular player that’s going to complain about noise. I definitely think it affects the tracking of the ball, so I’m not going to say that. Maybe a little bit of noise, I would welcome it. I don’t know if we could do like full blasting music.”
Gauff also agreed with Tiafoe’s claim that it would be better for the fan experience, adding: “It’s quite interesting what Frances said. I definitely think it would be more enjoyable for the fans, especially in the stadium, but I don’t know how players would be able to do that.”
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The teenager’s doubles partner Pegula also weighed in, adding: “Yeah. I mean, I think there would have to be some sort of parameters. I don’t think it could ever be replicated exactly, but I think the idea of thinking outside the box is positive.”
The world No 3 did note that there could be an issue of hindrance, explaining: “You can’t have people shouting in the middle of a point necessarily, but maybe if the movement was less restrictive, like, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. But then, yeah, of course, you open yourself up to things that could happen where it does maybe cause hindrances throughout the play, and it really affects the players.”
Pegula could also see why Tiafoe made the suggestion as an avid NBA fan but agreed that some elements should be transferred into tennis. “He loves the NBA, and he goes to NBA games. And it’s like constant chatter between the players and the people sitting on the court. There’s a lot of movement, music,” she said. “I mean, I think we have to implement some of those things. Obviously we have to fit it to our sport, but I think the idea is there. Maybe just fine-tuning it.”
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