“I Was Getting Frustrated. I Felt Like The Rules Were Being Bent.” | Coco Gauff Slams U.S. Open Chair Umpire For Not Enforcing The Rules

Over the course of a two-week Grand Slam tournament, to win you will have to overcome a lot of adversity. Coco Gauff began the 143rd U.S. Open facing a tough opponent who may or may not have been engaging in gamesmanship, an inconsistent chair umpire, and her own less than excellent play.

She survived, and is on to the next round. But what was the deal with the chair umpire that had Gauff so upset?

In tennis the rules are you must play to the pace of the server. Whenever the server is up to the line and ready, the opponent must be ready to receive, regardless of how long the previous point was or anything else.


Tennis also has a serve clock, controlled by the chair umpire, who gives the server 25 seconds before they begin their serve. If a player goes over the clock, they are supposed to be issued a warning. Repeat violations result in a loss of a point.

In Monday night’s match, Gauff’s opponent, Laura Siegemund, would routinely go over the allotted 25 seconds, but was not issued a warning. Gauff didn’t say anything, about it but it clearly bothered her. You could hear one of her coaches, Brad Gilbert, complain about it courtside.

Some players play fast, some moderate, others slow. Players know that about one another, and have always used different tactics to throw their opponent off rhythm. If a player likes to play slow, the opponent might try to rush them. If they like to play fast, the opponent will take extra time to slow them down.

But there are rules to stop any overt manipulation from happening, and it is up to the chair umpire to do so, and Gauff felt like the umpire didn’t do a good job during the match.

“I think the officiating needs to be the same regardless of the player. There was also a situation after the long game in the first set, she was sitting down. I told the ref that she’s not allowed to sit down because that’s the rule,” said Gauff in her post match presser. “She said, ‘Well, it was a long game.’ I don’t know exactly what I said. I said, It doesn’t matter if it’s a long game. Endurance is part of tennis. If I’m going in the gym four hours and I’m running tracks and doing cardio, that’s to prepare me for these long moments so she should be as prepared.”

Chair Umpire Inconsistency

Hard to disagree with Gauff there. The rules are there to make sure both competitors are on an even playing field. It is up to the umpire to be fair and make sure the rules are enforced. Umpires have leeway, but inconsistency on where and when to give that leeway frustrates players on both tours.

“I think that was the situation that I was getting frustrated. I felt like the rules were being bent,” Gauff continued. “That’s why a lot of players get mad when these time violations are called because one ref is letting them go over, the other is more strict on the time. I think tennis needs to be more strict on the rules for everybody regardless of every situation.”

In the third set, Gauff approached the chair umpire about Siegemund not being ready to return when she was serving. It led to a warning and a loss of a point for Siegemund that put Gauff up 5-1 in the deciding set.

Adversity comes in all forms and sometimes its the umpires and officials. If Gauff needs any reminder, all she has to do is look at her idol Serena Williams’ own issues with umpires and line judges at the U.S. Open. The great athletes find ways to overcome.

“I think most of the time, every Grand Slam you have one bad match. I’m glad I was able to get that out of the way in the first round.”

It’s easy to forget that Gauff is just 19 years old. She handles herself with the maturity of a 30-something veteran. If this was her bad match, the rest of the field better take notice. If she plays better from here on out, it’ll be tough to stop her.

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