DOUBLE STANDARDS IN TENNIS



Remember when Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic posed in their skimpy swimsuits?

Recently, Serena Williams did this (via onthegotennis.com)
http://tinyurl.com/6yc5qxk

When I checked my Blackberry today and saw my timeline blow up about Serena, I was wondering what was the problem. Lo and behold I finally got a chance to see what was causing all the journalists to come out in high dudgeon against Ms. Williams. Lo and behold, it was because she chose to change her twitter Avatar with the picture cited above.

I have to say that I am a bit stunned at the reaction of tennis journos, and especially that paragon of tennis journalism, Greg Couch. Mr. Couch states that “Still, Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic photos are never quite as gritty as Serena’s”. Hum, maybe they are not as gritty as Serena, simply because despite what advertisers and others would have us think you are either born with it, or you have it bestowed upon you. In Ms. Williams’ case, put her in sack cloth and ashes and she would still make Sharapova, Ivanovic and Kournikova look ordinary.

However, that is not the reason for this post. This post is about the hypocrisy that pervades throughout tennis journalism, and no where is it more evident but in the way how women’s tennis is covered and the way in which the women’s game is portrayed by journalists.

Separate and apart from the righteous indignation of Couch who would have us think that he is only defending Serena’s honour in thinking that for someone who has been the victim of a stalker (and he had the gall to cite Erin Andrews, but more anon), but how dare she post a picture that conjures up so much meaning and putting it out there for another stalker, or the same one, to think that he was invited to do it once again. How dare Serena Williams actually try and be a woman. A person. An individual. How dare she?

If I was 10% convinced that Mr. Couch’s heart was in the right place, I would ask him to get into high dudgeon at the way the media has chosen to deal with women’s tennis since this 2011 tennis season has commenced:-

1. There have been 4 Premier Mandatory tournaments played since the tennis season began. Of these 4 Premier Mandatory tournaments, the women’s portion of those events have only been airing since the quarter-finals. Tennis Channel, ESPN and the other networks that broadcast tennis do not believe that women’s tennis is worthy of being watched by millions of viewers and so the women are hardly shown and when they are shown, we are given highlights or interrupted play. I do not recall Couch and many other journalists bemoaning that fact.
2. When Todd Woodbridge chose to comment to Rennae Stubbs via text message that the possible reason for Kim Clijsters looking so grumpy and her breasts looking full must mean that she is once again pregnant. Correct me if I am wrong folks, but I do not recall anyone defending the invasion of Clijsters’ privacy with such a disgusting remark. I think most women would agree with me that if you had to get up and look at Mr. Couch’s face every day, and indeed listen to some of the male commentators on tv, you would perhaps be grumpy as well.
3. How about the constant belittling of professional women by referring to them as girls? If there is anything more demeaning to listen to is having grown ass men referring to women who could buy them 10 times over as girls. I will keel over and die the next time I hear commentators refer to the likes of Federer and Nadal as boys.
The cries of indignation by people like Couch infers and/or implies that because Serena was the victim of a stalker she should not have posted such a suggestive picture of herself. I guess that means that women who get raped while on dates should never ever go out on another date. Or how about women who get attacked viciously while going about their normal business? According to Mr. Couch, they must be asking for it, or indeed, they should change their lifestyle to minimize the chance of them being attacked. Are you serious Mr. Couch? He seems to think that Serena posting a picture of herself is an invitation to the lunatics, like the one who stalked her, and therefore, Serena, a free adult should be bound by fear, according to Mr. Couch, and not post pictures of herself, no matter that this is a free society, because the likes of the stalker who was recently hauled before the Florida Courts could be tempted to do this again.

As someone who has been a victim of personal crime, I find it insensitive and downright obnoxious that someone like Mr. Couch could ever deem to hold himself out as a moral authority as to women’s rights. Mr. Couch has used his position as a journalist to besmirch and downright call down fire and brimstone on the head of the Williams family, and Serena Williams in particular. Mr. Couch has absolutely no moral authority, imagined or otherwise, to even call Serena Williams to account.

It would have been good if Mr. Couch was sincere in his chastising of Ms. Williams, but his previous rants against Ms. Williams and indeed her whole family, the most recent of which was his abominable rants that Ms. Williams, knowing that she could not play an exhibition event for Nike, implied, inferred and colluded with Nike to have her name on a billboard promoting said Nike event. The fact that Ms. Williams was then diagnosed as suffering a pulmonary embolism, had to be rushed to the hospital for a subsequent hematoma, as a result of a cut on her foot, which to this day, Mr. Couch, and others of his like thinks is a figment of Ms. Williams’ imagination, notwithstanding his stance and others like him that Ms. Williams was not in fact injured, but was saving herself for the majors. I am yet to hear any apology from any of those members of the media who called into question, Serena’s continued absence from the Tour.

Therefore, it strikes me as a bit rich, that Mr. Couch of all people should be coming out and purportedly chastising Ms. Williams for putting herself in danger, seeing as she had been the victim of a stalker. You cannot have it both ways. It is either Ms. Williams is a lying, cheating hypocritical heifer who makes up injuries in order that tournaments can sell tickets, or she is injured, or she is the victim of a stalker, or is it that Ms. Williams, like most women, needs a man to look after their interest, because she is incapable of doing so herself.

Mr. Couch is of the view that Serena’s personality and character are big for women’s tennis. He believes that people like Schiavone (a very talented player and a Grand Slam champion) do not draw crowds to tennis matches or fans are not drawn to her. Clearly, he did not watch today’s match with Schiavone and Hantuchova, when Schiavone showed us just why she is a Grand Slam champion. She had the crowd in Centre Court in her home country on their feet with her performance today. Perhaps Mr. Couch should have been watching that match, rather than trolling the internet looking at Serena’s twitter picture (or maybe he did not get to see it seeing as it was not on Tennis Channel).

Mr. Couch and his cohorts in the media, and those who continue to use their positions to deride the women’s game need to be called to account. For too long they have used their positions to belittle the women’s game.

The constant criticism of the grunting in women’s tennis, never mind that the current No. 1 player in the world, grunts like he is climbing Mount Everest and having a hard time of it. The current No.2, Novak Djokovic (grunts), Verdasco (grunts), Federer (grunts), almost every single Spanish player (grunts), some of them so loud that you cannot even hear the commentary in the booth at times. The only comment is this “what an effort from [insert name here]. When the women do it, they are not exerting effort. Oh no. They are just doing it because they are cheating. It annoys me that former players such as Carillo and Navratilova have joined the bandwagon in criticizing the women’s game in relation to this but I guess if you want to be considered one of the boys, what better way than to join up against the women.

Of course the women grunt, but they also play tennis. How about commenting on the tennis and leave the grunting out of it. Is it distracting to fans? Sometimes, it is. Is it turning fans away? Only because the media continues to put emphasis on the issue. During every single broadcast of a tennis match featuring Azarenka, Sharapova or Venus, the first thing that you hear is the hue and cry about grunting.

I, like many fans of women’s tennis are waiting for the day when Serena Williams returns to the tennis court. As it is she is not playing the French Open. Rather than the media speculating about a picture that Serena Williams posted, how about letting fans know who the early round contenders are? How about doing some homework before the start of play so that fans can be properly advised about the current crop of players.

I will not be holding my breath for that to happen.