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King says WTA Tour needs more female coaches

Former tennis player Billie Jean King is interviewed while promoting PBS's American Masters series in Beverly Hills, California August 6, 20
Former tennis player Billie Jean King is interviewed while promoting PBS's American Masters series in Beverly Hills, California August 6, 20

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Top female tennis players may be doing themselves a disservice by hiring male coaches instead of women, according to former great Billie Jean King.

The American said she was baffled why players on the WTA Tour are never tempted to break the mould and tap into the vast knowledge of the likes of Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert or even herself for that matter.

"I've coached (former player) Tim Mayotte and a couple of others, but nobody ever asks us," the 70-year-old told the BBC in an interview at Indian Wells.

"It's a big mistake because we are a great resource, and they should ask. Nobody ever comes to me and says 'Will you help me with my game?' any more.

"The last one to ask me to help was Martina Navratilova when she was playing her last few years of singles." Navratilova retired in 2006.

While age may be against King and the 57-year-old Navratilova becoming coaches, it appears odd that the more-recently retired players have not moved into coaching.

Of the current women's top 20, none have female coaches although Germany's Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki has an informal relationship with former world No.1 Martina Hingis.

Marion Bartoli, who beat Lisicki in the final but has since retired, also worked with compatriot Amelie Mauresmo for a while having been coached throughout her career by father Walter.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki split with Thomas Hogstedt in January sending the WTA rumor mill into overdrive as to who the fading Dane will turn to next, just as it did when Maria Sharapova ditched former men's world No.1 Jimmy Connors after just one match last year.

Wozniacki is working with fellow Dane Michael Mortensen who helped China's Li Na win the French Open in 2011, but whether that becomes a long-term arrangement will depend on whether the 23-year-old can rediscover her old form.

The coaching merry-go-round will continue throughout the months ahead and the one certainty is that the vast majority of women will continue working with male coaches.

Among the men, it is no surprise to see the likes of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer working with Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg respectively - men who were all dominant in a previous era.

King says there needs to be a cultural shift in attitudes for the situation to change on the women's side.

"We've been taught that we're not as good at things. That's the way world culture works," said the 12-times grand slam singles champion who has been a driving force behind equal prize money for women.

"I don't think it ever crosses their mind. And a lot of people don't like to be controversial - everything's branding today. I didn't worry about that so much."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Alan Baldwin)

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