Fuck me that’s a long title.
Wait til you see the rest of the post.
A few weeks ago when the tennis tournament in Washington started, I was getting ready for bed one night (that night time skincare routine x) and thinking about how, after that week, my favey favey Denis Shapovalov would have ranking points to defend pretty much for the first time properly in his career. And then I thought that points to defend would be siicckkk name for a tennis series where you talk about (you guessed it! x) points you want to defend. And then I tweeted about it because it’s me and of course I did.
So here we are, hello and welcome to points to defend. Not sure how often I’ll make these, and I’ll still be doing my Grand Slam parting thoughts that I totally didn’t take from Jon at Sports Illustrated, but I wanted a lil space where I could talk about anything tennis-related that came to mind, a bit like when I wrote about sexism in tennis or the wider issues that the Kyrgios / Kokkinakis / Verdasco Miami Open dramzzz raised. My intention is for this to be a new series that rounds up anything I want to talk about RE tennis in smaller, digestable doses than the aforementioned posts.
The most important thing for me was to attempt to bridge the gap between my audience who are into tennis, and my audience who most definitely are not. I don’t want to keep these points too niche, the way I do in my Slam thoughts, I’d rather talk about things that people who aren’t super into tennis can still understand and relate to, just in a tennis context. I also don’t want to always keep the topics time-bound to recent tournaments – this isn’t meant to be a roundup of recent events in the tennis calendar. Think of this as one of those regular roundups bloggers write about recent events in their lives, except it’s not about me or my life at all. Lol. Enjoy.
the french open banned serena’s catsuit, and everyone who is responding without knowing much about tennis actually sounds a bit stupid. soz.
This post was meant to go out on Wednesday and everything was written about a week ago but maybe the delay was a blessing in disguise because since Wednesday this whole fiasco of the French Tennis Federation president banning Serena’s catsuit and any similar outfits from the tournament has come about. Now, let’s be clear about one thing. It is a ridiculous thing for him to have said, it is a ridiculous rule to implement, it is disgusting to call that outfit ‘too far’ and disrespectful to the game of tennis. BUT. Y’all twitter locals who have zero idea what you’re talking about have been reacting to this so badly it’s laughable. Anyone who knows a bit about tennis, how things work, who is in charge of what tournaments is laughing at you because your responses sound so uneducated. Sorry. Not taking any prisoners.
Let’s first talk about the stupid comments made by the FTF president before we get into what’s wrong with so many of the responses from people who know sweet fuckall about tennis. Wimbledon has a dress code – all white. It does seem ridiculous at times but it’s one tournament a year, Wimbledon is known for its tradition and prestige, but they’re not too limiting on what you wear so long as it’s all white. The French Open’s new rule sounds a bit stupid. It’s a bit pointless to suddenly come out and ban outfits that look like that when they weren’t previously an issue. Now, the catsuit was allowed under the rules at this year’s French Open, but under the new rules that the FTF want to implement in time for next year’s Slam it would no longer be allowed in any French Open from 2019 onwards (unless the rules again change in the future). Why now, out of nowhere, change the rules? And why now when the US Open is about to start, when the 2019 French Open is something like nine or ten months away? It’s stupid to make the rule and to have announced it now, it’s an unnecessary change to make, and it’s unfair of the FTF to have said this now to take away from the upcoming US Open and its press. It’s disrespectful to the best player this game has ever seen and I will never not defend Serena, I will never not be on Serena’s side in this situation.
But everyone is overreacting. The responses are ridiculous. It’s doing my head in. First of all, this rule is not being made specifically about Serena and that one outfit. There is a new dress code being implemented by the FTF for future French Opens as of 2019, and outfits like Serena’s catsuit would not be allowed under the new dress code, so it was used as an example of what wouldn’t be allowed. Yes, calling it disrespectful to the game is an outright dumb statement to make with no backing or substance behind it. But that aside, do y’all really think Serena was gonna wear the exact same outfit at every Slam from now on including the French Open? Did y’all really think she’d wear a catsuit forever? She didn’t wear one at Wimbledon (granted you have to submit your clothing designs months in advance for Wimby so they may not have designed the catsuit at that point), she didn’t wear one in her tournaments since like San Jose and Cincinnati, and she won’t wear one at the upcoming US Open. She evidently doesn’t want to always wear the catsuit so it’s not about her not being able to wear the catsuit at the French Open ever again. She doesn’t give a shit. She was asked a lot about this whole thing at her US Open pre-tournament press conference and she was so chilla about it, she doesn’t care, she said she didn’t want to be a ‘repeat offender’ in fashion which confirmed my thoughts that she probably wouldn’t be wearing a catsuit, especially not the exact same one, at every tournament forever onwards. She obviously was not going to wear a catsuit every tournament anyway. A lot of people are upset that the catsuit is banned when Serena wore it for medical reasons, but at Wimbledon she wore dark compression tights under her white dress/skirt for the same purpose as she wore the catsuit at the French Open. The catsuit isn’t the only solution to preventing blood clots, she can also wear compression tights so she has been.
A lot of people are taking this as ‘the catsuit is banned because it’s all black’. Are y’all fucking stupid? Like, really? I don’t doubt that there are underlying sexist and racist messages behind this sudden new rule and using Serena and her all black catsuit as the example of what will no longer be allowed. But people think that the issue is that it’s all black. One viral tweet I saw from someone who clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about compared Federer wearing a black top and shorts at a different tournament before and said some shit about how Fed is celebrated for wearing all black (the fuck?) and labelled ‘Darth Federer’ in appreciation (you what?) yet Serena isn’t allowed to wear all black. Other tweets compared photos of the likes of Genie Bouchard and Maria Sharapova practicing on a tennis court at a different tournament in black leggings and asked how it was allowed for the white girls to wear long black pants but Serena couldn’t do the same. I can’t tell you lot how stupid you sound. I keep saying it because you really do. All these photos are in different contexts, at different tournaments. They are not on the match court at the French Open. And even if they were, that’s because it was all allowed up until the 2019 tournament. One more time: Serena’s catsuit was allowed at the French Open this year. The comparisons you are all making are redundant because they are from practise sessions and other tournaments. It’s nothing to do with the fact that the catsuit was black. Players, including Serena, wear black clothes all the damn time. People are also comparing to the catsuits Serena wore in the 00s that were more of a vest-and-shorts type thing than a full on short-sleeves-and-leggings combo and asking why the skimpy ones were allowed but this one isn’t. Because the new rules only come into effect at the 2019 French Open for every French Open onwards. All these outfits including this year’s catsuit have always been allowed up until now. And this rule only affects the outfits players can wear at the French Open. The WTA and ATP tours run for 10-11 months a year, they can wear pretty much whatever they want at every other tournament for 10-11 months straight. People are asking how her catsuit is disrespectful when other girls wear short skirts. I understand your claim here – how is a catsuit disrespectful but a skirt isn’t? But a short skirt wouldn’t be disrespectful either just because it’s short and you can see someone’s arse when it flies up – your comparison makes it sound like there is something wrong with women in short skirts because it should be more disrespectful in comparison, the two shouldn’t be compared because it implies that one must be bad or worse than the other. Some of the tweets have been along the lines of ‘how are the white girls allowed to wear skimpy short skirts and Serena can’t wear a catsuit with leggings?’ Do y’all realise almost every female tennis player ever wears a short skirt at nearly every tournament they play, including Serena? Including Venus, Sloane, Vickery? The short skirts are allowed for everyone no matter what your race is. The only claim you can make in this case is why would leggings / a catsuit be disrespectful but a skirt or shorts wouldn’t?
Finally, a lot of people are calling for Serena to boycott the French Open and some are even saying she should pull out of the upcoming US Open to protest the French Open’s new dress code. Again, you sound stupid. The French Open’s new dress code has been announced, created, and implemented by the French Tennis Federation. They have nothing to do with the US Open or any tournament not held in France, so it would not affect the French Tennis Federation in the slightest. Instead, it would affect the United States Tennis Association, whose president is Katrina Adams – the first African-American President and CEO of the USTA. And even in regards to the French Open, why should Serena deny herself the chance to compete for one of the four Grand Slam titles every year? Why should she deny herself the chance to make history with how many Slams she can keep on winning by refusing to play one of them?
Yes, it’s a ridiculous rule to suddenly implement. It’s ridiculous to claim that certain outfits are disrespectful to the game of tennis and its history. It’s very disrespectful to such an icon, not only of this sport but also just in the world, to use her and her empowering outfit that she wore for medical reasons as an example of what will be banned in the future. But a lot of people are taking it the wrong way, thinking it’s a bigger issue than it is, and making a mountain out of a molehill. Before you open your mouth or type your 280 character rant, have a watch of what Serena had to say about it all because the woman really doesn’t mind that much.
we are finally, slowly starting to open up a discussion about mental health in tennis
During the Washington tournament, I had a random lil thought pop into my head (side note: I can’t say the word random without thinking of year six me or Ja’mie Private School Girl and the word makes me feel a bit sick so like sorry for using it). I wondered if any player had ever pulled out of a match or tournament citing mental health, or if this would even technically be allowed.
And then, only a few days later, Serena Williams posted to Instagram opening up about her post-partum mental health struggles. This post came a few days after her career-worst loss to Johanna Konta (though we now also know that Serena discovered her sister’s killer had been released from prison before the match so this obviously affected her a lot) and it was so extremely powerful seeing arguably the best player the sport of tennis has ever seen and will ever see candidly speaking about her mental health struggle and implying that yes, even Queen Serena can have her game affected by a poor mental health day. One thing I love about her Serena is her constant desire to use her career as a platform to empower women and tell us that if she can do it, we all can too. This is something she’s always reiterated since her comeback from pregnancy, wanting to show mothers everywhere that they can do whatever they want to do and still be a mum alongside that, and it’s a sentiment she’s echoing again in regards to mental health. Mental health is seldom spoken about in tennis, there are a few players who occasionally open up about it but there’s never a constant narrative about or regard for players’ mental health on tour so having Serena be the one to open up about it will hopefully move the conversation about mental health in the sport forward.
A lot was made of Andy Murray crying after his third round win against Copil in Washington. Here is one of the best players on the ATP tour, part of the prestigious big four, audibly sobbing into a towel after an emotional, gruelling win. With suicide being such a big killer of men, especially younger men, seeing this elite athlete who has won Olympic Gold, Grand Slam titles, BBC SPOTY three times, awarded a knighthood, and been praised and highly regarded as one of the best athletes of our time openly showing his emotions in a place that he knew was being heavily broadcast and televised all over the world shows us that it is ok for men to show emotion. Andy led by example. He knew everyone would be watching, he knew everyone would be talking about it after, and he didn’t care. He knew it wouldn’t make him any less of a man (I hate that expression because it seems so sexist but I hope you get my sentiment here), he knew it wouldn’t make him any less of an athlete. Yes, he would’ve known everyone would talk about it after, but that’s kind of the point. He didn’t refrain from crying and showing emotion because he thinks there is nothing wrong with doing that, and that’s something he’d want everyone to think too. In a similar vein, a little earlier this year ATP player Steve Johnson also opened up about his struggles with anxiety after losing his dad last year, and how he’s realised that showing emotion doesn’t make you weak, and it’s well worth the read.
We’ve also seen this year’s Indian Wells winner Naomi Osaka candidly open up about her mental health several times this year, and recently she posted an update on Twitter. If you don’t know too much about her, let me give you the TL;DR on Naomi Osaka. She is one of the funniest, bubbliest girls on the tour. She’s got a Stan Twitter funny social media gal vibe about her, her press conferences and speeches are always absolute comedic gold. So her opening up about her mental health struggles shows that we never really know what someone is going through, even if they seem like the last person who’d struggle with something like that.
After my little thought about players and mental health, it’s nice to see that some of them are opening up about these things. On the has anyone ever withdrawn from a tournament citing mental health? question, I don’t actually know the answer but I don’t think so because I feel like it’d be one of those things you’d have heard about. Of course plenty of players withdraw from tournaments with ‘injuries’ just to use them as an excuse when they’re too fatigued to play a third week in a row (a la Halep with New Haven this past week) or they’ve got the matches they need and now want to wait for the next Slam (a la Kvitova in Eastbourne this year) and you can also cite ‘personal reasons’ for pulling out, so if someone is pulling out because of their mental health they might just be masking it with one of those other reasons. The important thing is that we’ve seen two of the sport’s best players, Serena and Andy, open up about mental health in recent weeks so this has started the conversation that needs to be more spoken about in the sport, and maybe we will soon see players open to admitting that they might not be able to play a match because of their mental health.
the big five (because, yes, stan wawrinka should be up there with the best) are back
The big five, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, are all back playing, and the US Open will mark the first tournament in which all five are in the draw since Wimbledon – unless Muzza pulls out of his fifth Slam in a row which now really doesn’t seem like he will because he’s playing tomorrow (Cincinnati was meant to be the first tournament with them all, but Rafa pulled out to preserve his body after winning Toronto). During the clay season, we had a Rafa-Novak showdown. During grass, we had Andy-Stan and Rafa-Novak again. And, now, in the last couple of weeks in Toronto and Cincy we’ve had Rafa-Stan, Federer-Stan and Fed-Novak. And every single one of these matches (maybe bar Andy-Stan, except that had its own drama in the fact that it was so one-sided and the shock factor in two 3x Slam champions playing each other in the first round of a little 250 event) have been of high quality, full of drama and intensity, the players showing some of the best level ever. Now they’re all playing at the same time again with none of them (as of this moment, touch wood) sidelined by injury I’m so excited to see them dominating and playing each other for the rest of the season. I think after Roger and Rafa had such a quick tournaround in their comebacks at the 2017 Australian Open, we expected the same of Andy, Novak and Stan in their comebacks at the start of this season. Except, Novak didn’t do that well until the end of the clay season and nobody regarded him as ‘back’ until he won Wimbledon. Stan’s comeback has been so stop-and-start that we’re only really seeing him back at his good level now. And Andy? Mans barely even come back yet. We’ve seen the slow and steady comeback from Novak, we’re now starting to see it from Stan and hopefully before the year is out, we’ll see it from Andy. The rest of this season is all about seeing them back on tour all together and getting them all to a place where they can all start 2019 at their best and renew the rivalries.
With such a focus on the next generation in the ATP world, it’s almost like we’re now trying to rush the era of tennis we’re now in. We’re guessing which of the next gen will be the first to win a Slam, and we want them to do it now. Every time a next gen star posts a big win or big results (think Tsitsipas in Canada, Denis Shapo last Summer, Sascha Zverev every time he wins a Masters) we start expecting more and more of them and turn our attention to what they’re doing, place bets on when they’ll win a bigger title. We suddenly divert our focus from the big five to the next gen, and for what? When you see the matches between the players of the big five, they are next level. They are of such a high calibre that we never see in any other matches from any other players, ever. I want these matchups to continue for as long as possible between the five of them, I still want them at the top of the game fighting for the biggest titles. We’ll have 10-15 years after this to see all of the Shapovalov – Lil Zverev finals, so let’s just enjoy the big five whilst we still can. I know I am.
a little something on press conference and on-court behaviour, and how we respond differently to different players showing the same attitude
In Toronto, when Nick Kyrgios lost to Stan Wawrinka in a very tight match that, on paper, he probably should’ve won, he was pretty dismissive in his press conference. He praised Stan (I think that particular vid cut out the nice comments about Stan) but was critical on himself and gave short answers, and the impression that he didn’t really wanna be there. People were outraged, as people often are with every. single. little. bloody. thing. Nick does, and it wasn’t even just people in the tennis world, I saw Australians I knew slagging him off for his dismissive, disinterested attitude in said press conference.
Also in Toronto, when Sascha Zverev lost to Stefanos Tsitisipas despite being way up on him and even serving for the match, he said some things in his press conference that were pretty nasty to say about your opponent. He called the match pathetic and said he thought Stefanos didn’t even play that well. A lot was made of these comments, but there was nowhere near as much outrage towards Sascha for this press conference behaviour as there had been for Nick earlier in the week, despite Nick praising his opponent and only having bad things to say about his own performance, compared to Lil Z dragging Tsitsipas down with him. I already tweeted my opinion RE both Nick and Sascha’s comments but ofc when you have more time to think about them and look back with some hindsight, you think a lil differently.
My opinion on the Nick situ hasn’t really changed. I understand that it’s difficult for the journalists and it comes off as rude but Nick wasn’t being outright derogatory or negative towards anyone other than himself, whereas Sascha was criticising his opponent’s play. Both press conferences were heat-of-the-moment, not long after either of them came off court. They didn’t have time to calm down before going into press, so they were honest about how they were feeling and were still caught up in the emotions of losing their respective matches.
Now, I’m always the first person who enjoys brutal honesty from players – too many of them sit on the fence, hedge what they’re saying and tiptoe around giving a strong opinion or saying anything controversial or even slightly negative, but to me there was something about the way Sascha criticised Stefanos’ performance that crossed a line, even just a bit. It was just a bit different than the usual refreshing honesty from players. When you look at the match and its stats and the quality of both players’ play, Lil Zverev isn’t actually wrong. Neither of them played their best, the match was good because of the drama and the turnaround but not because of any high % of first serves in or winners or anything like that from either player. This is something lots of people have been using to defend Sascha’s comments – the fact that he’s not wrong because in terms of stats, Stefanos actually didn’t play as well as he has in other matches. But Sascha was not talking about that. We all know he wasn’t. He was pissed tf off that he didn’t win a match after being in a position to easily win it in straight sets in about an hour. Mans didn’t sit and look at the stats and come to the conclusion that neither of them played of a high quality, he was just being a bit of a sore loser. There were better ways to word it, as the Tennis Podcast said the other week, he could’ve said something like sure, neither of us played our best but my level became so bad today that Stefanos didn’t even need to play that well to be able to beat me. I called his comments uncalled-for-year-six-playground-bullying, emphasis on the year six playground bullying because obviously it’s not severe enough to be legit bullying but it is a bit petty year six when you have a spat with someone in your class and tell them that their painting is ugly and nobody likes them. There was just something about his comments that didn’t seem like the usual refreshingly honest answers players give when they lose a match, I think because the remarks about Tsitsipas specifically were just unnecessary, everything else he said was fine because it only affected himself. As twelve year old bogan Australian me would say – they were TITF. But he was just another guy annoyed with himself that he lost and letting that emotion out in his press conference, he’s still young and he’s learning. Ok, he looked like a bit of a sore loser, but who hasn’t been a sore loser before? If he wasn’t mad, people would come at him for not caring enough.
At the end of the day, Nick and Sascha are both young guys who make mistakes, got caught up in the heat of the moment and weren’t afraid to tell the press how they really felt after their tough losses. It’s just annoying that people always make a bigger fuss over Nick being controversial than they do about anyone else. Don’t we all remember Novak after his French Open loss? He was so annoyed with himself that he moved his press conference to a tiny room and declared that he might not even play the grass season. Ofc he didn’t mean it, he was angry and caught up in the heat of the moment, the man even went on to win the only Grand Slam of the grass season. But we all cut him some slack for those comments because we knew he was just caught up in the moment fresh off a bad loss, so why can’t we show the same understanding towards Kyrgios, and even towards Sascha (unnecessary criticisms towards his opponent removed). I think there is a bigger issue in the fact that us as tennis fans, or pundits, or journalists allow exceptions for some players and heavily berate others for displaying the same or similar types of negative behaviour or attitude from time to time than there is in players occasionally displaying negative behaviour or attitude.
My god. That was long. I thought I said this would be digestable? It’ll be shorter next time, I swear.
Anyway, the US Open kicks off tomorrow and ya girl is flying to New York for it so expect some sick NYC content on here and the ‘gram and Twitter, and I’ll see ya in a couple weeks for my last Grand Slam parting thoughts of the 2018 season.