Roger Federer criticizes age rule that limits Cori 'Coco' Gauff | News Coverage from USA

Roger Federer criticizes age rule that limits Cori ‘Coco’ Gauff

Roger Federer is not a fan of the age rule that limits female tennis players from playing in a cornucopia of major events. 

The Women’s Tennis Association’s restriction policy for teenagers will limit the amount of events 15-year-old sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff can compete in.

Introduced in 1994 following the rise of teenage star Jennifer Capriati and put into place in the late 1990s, players aged 13 and under are not allowed to play at all, and 14-to-17-year olds have decreasing restrictions — 14-year-olds are limited to eight professional events and 15-year-olds are limited to 10. However, the WTA has relaxed those rules over the years and has done so for Gauff (she’s allowed to play in 12, with the possibility of 14) due to exceptional play at the junior level. 

Gauff has already played in eight professional tournaments and can play in up to six more before she turns 16 in March. Then, she’s granted 12, but 16-year-olds can have four merited tournaments added for a total of 16.

The men’s game has similar restrictions, although it has no restrictions for 16-year olds like the women’s game. 

Federer, the 20-time men’s Grand Slam champion who has been judicious with his annual tournament selection at age 37, was critical of the limitations. His management company, Team8, represents Gauff. He felt players like Martina Hingis, who was once world No. 1 at 16 before the rule was implemented, maybe wouldn’t have been able to win Grand Slams.

“I’ve told the WTA they should loosen up the rules,” Federer said Monday, per ESPN. “I loved seeing Hingis doing what she did at a young age. I think it would be nice, you know, if they could play more. I feel like it puts, in some ways, extra pressure on them every tournament they play. It’s like their week, ‘This is now where I finally am allowed to play, I have to do well,’ right? I’m not sure if it’s maybe to some extent counterproductive.

“Maybe your best time (in a player’s career) is from 14 to 20 for some reason. It’s not like for everybody else from 20 to 30. So in a way you take away that opportunity, you know. … It’s up to debate. I don’t have the perfect solution. I see why they did it, because we’ve had the history of some tough parents out there. But at the same time you’re also increasing the pressure for that player each week to produce.”

Federer’s rival and friend, Rafael Nadal, felt differently about the rule. 

“Probably they do it to protect a little bit the physical issue,” he told reporters. “When you are that young, when you have her level of tennis, of course you follow the normal tour and you believe that you can manage very well, no? But it’s true that your body is still under development. Sometimes it can be a little bit dangerous for the injuries in the future. I don’t have a real opinion on this. But I understand the rule. Maybe it’s not bad.”

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