The picture of the gif shown above is the only visible proof of what fans felt about the actions of WTA #1 Victoria Azarenka. I watched the match and that banner never appeared once on the feed I was watching. Of course the picture on the side is obviously a photo manipulation. I found it on a WTA fan site.
It seems I wasn't clear enough about reactions to Azarenka's taking advantage of the rules to calm herself down after blowing five match points to close out her match against American Sloane Stephens. I'm going to go a bit off topic here to mention that Stephens should beware of taking victory tours when she hasn't really won a "victory" yet. The USTA is desperate to have someone, especially an African American woman, to point to with pride and say "we did that". The American tennis establishment has never accepted Venus Williams or Serena Williams as one of their own since their parents had the sense to keep them out of the clutches of the people who wanted to claim the Williams success as their own. And let's not forget the media riot surrounding the USTA's treatment of Taylor Townsend this past summer. That the USTA wants to celebrate Stephens victory over an injured Serena Williams speaks volumes about how they feel about Serena.
It's interesting how Azarenka's fans have reacted to the furor. Their defense of their favorite boils down to the following:
1. Victoria misunderstood the question.
2. She was really injured.
3. Sloane wasn't going to win anyway.
4. Everybody does it.
Three and four can be dismissed out of hand. No one expected Stephens to win - she'd played a long hard match against a player who even while injured was playing to win and still had a chance to do so. A day's rest would've made a hell of a lot of difference in Stephens ability to play toe to toe with Azarenka who had struggled all tournament. I'm not saying she would've won but it would've been a more competitive match.
I think this is said to divert attention from Azarenka blowing those five match points which led to the MTO and the controversy.
Everybody does it is pure bull. Usually people drag out references to Rafael Nadal's alleged sketchy MTO's. There is one that I remember and Toni told him to cut the shit. If you want to go into phony MTO's the person who should be cited is Novak Djokovic but ironically the people using this argument never do so. I wonder why.
The first point, the one that was used AFTER the furor arose, is also fiction. Azarenka has lived in the United States for years and speaks English quite well, well enough to understand nuance.
The second point, that she was really injured, is wishful thinking. As Randy Burgess points out in his response to someone making that argument Azarenka herself said that she almost committed the "choke of the century" and that she felt "overwhelmed" and that she "had to win". She understood the question and answered truthfully.
By the time she was interviewed after leaving the court there's no doubt that her PR people had been hard at work. Unfortunately there were lots of people in RLA and millions watching. And lets not forget social media. The bought and paid for tennis media couldn't hide what had happened as they would've done in the past. That is why the four points of view have been floating around trying to explain the unexplainable and indefensible.
Finally I want to address the issue of sexism in both fan and press reaction to Victoria Azarenka as a player.
I watched tennis during the era of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Their antics were met with a wink and nod from the then mostly male sports writers and used to prove how masculine tennis was. They routinely exploded on court causing both cringing and cheering among tennis fans. Even today everyone knows McEnroe's "you can not be serious" line whether you're a tennis fan or not.
It should be pointed out that
Such behavior has never been condoned in a female tennis player. This article in Yahoo Eurosport mentions the long standing antipathy to Azarenka down under.
I guess it gets down to whether the behavior of McEnroe and Connors would be tolerated in any player, male or female, today. I don't think it would. Today's fans want good competition and eruptions of emotion or bad sportsmanship don't sit go over well today. Celebrate a well crafted point, a good rally, argue with the chair but throwing things at on court officials (See THIS ) is not a way to get the fans behind you.
After a run of Slamless #1's women's tennis has a #1 who can win Slams. This doesn't mean that everything she does is protected by The Almighty. Azarenka is deserving of the top ranking at this point. She plays a relatively full schedule and makes Grand Slam semi finals and finals. Her behavior is not what she, or the WTA want for the sport at this time. The era of prim ladies in long white skirts has gone the way of the dinosaur. The fans accept women who play in your face tennis with a side order of grace, and good sportsmanship.
Davis Cup play starts today. The only member of the Top 4 playing is Novak Djokovic.
Bernard Tomic was caught going 78 KM/H in a 60 KM/H zone. Driving a bright yellow Ferrari with 'SINCITY' plates. The police officer didn't want his autograph. His license has been suspended. Good thing young Aussies made a good showing in Melbourne.
WTA players are out and about - in pictures
Daniela Hantuchova and Maria Kirilenko
Berry Gordy, Victoria Azarenka and Stefan Gordy
Serena Williams and Patrick Mouratoglou out and about in Melbourne. Loving the Air Jordan trainers and the short red dress.
But for some of us all of the legs shown above don't make us as happy as the sight of these legs do.
Welcome back Rafa!