NEW YORK -- Patrick Mouratoglou, the coach of Serena Williams, defended the actions that opened the door to controversy in last year's US Open women's final, maintaining that under identical circumstances he would again violate the rules against on-court coaching.
"I would do the same tomorrow," Mouratoglou said in a news conference Sunday evening. "Really. 100%. And if I'm penalized again, I think it's unfair the same way."
The trigger for the events that turned the 2018 final between Williams and first-time Grand Slam finalist Naomi Osaka into a bitter debacle was the verbal "code violation" issued to Williams by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. The official saw Mouratoglou giving a hand signal for Williams to move forward into the court. Under the rules, it is the player who is penalized for the actions of the coach.
Upon being hit with the violation, Williams protested that she wasn't a cheater and has never benefited from illegal on-court coaching. The situation rapidly degenerated into an acrimonious debate and actions that ultimately resulted in Williams losing the match -- and Osaka reduced to tears.
"Do I regret [having coached]?" Mouratoglou said. "Not at all. Not at all. For me, I didn't do anything bad. I just did what all the coaches do."
Mouratoglou, who has worked as a guest commentator for ESPN, doubled-down on his insistence that coaching from the stands is so rampant that it's a near-universal feature of the pro game.
"Everybody coaches," he said. "I mean, let's not say everybody because it's never everybody, but let's say 90%. It's probably more, but let's say 90. You see that every day on every court. Everybody knows it."
The coach, who also operates the eponymous tennis academy that has helped develop, among others, Coco Gauff and Stefanos Tsitsipas, insisted that chair umpires "are very nice with that [coaching]," and routinely look the other way until the coaching becomes flagrantly obvious.
Even then, he suggested, the officials usually offer a discreet verbal warning instead of issuing a code violation.
"So that was extremely unfair," Mouratoglou said of Ramos' censure, insisting that Ramos, an umpire long known for being a stickler, knows that Mouratoglou doesn't violate the coaching rules.
"I did it once," he said of his hand gesture. "Nobody gives a warning for the first time. They just tell you, 'Be careful.' Actually tell you to be careful usually after four or five times. Anyway, so I think it was completely unfair."
Mouratoglou added, "I felt like she [Serena] was lost at that moment, and I tried to help her, doing something that everybody does."