Culture

Here’s A Recap Of All The Cringe-Worthy Things That Happened To Female Tennis Players This Week

You know it's a bad week when you have something called #twirlgate.

We’re now exactly half-way through the Australian Open which means you’ve either finally perfected the art of flipping over Channel 7 without hearing any awkward squeaks or grunts, or your excessive night-time exposure has led you to now exclusively dream in repetitive flashes of neon colour. But, whichever group you belong to, it’s been nearly impossible to not hear about the tennis in some form this week.

Of course, Lleyton Hewitt was knocked out of the competition leaving Australia’s main hopes in the hands of a 19-year-old who smashes racquets. And Roger Federer also suffered an early defeat propelling the nation into a brief sadness for the fact we’ll no longer be able to stare dreamily into his eyes and/or butt.

But, while the dudes were making headlines about being tennis wunderkinds or “cheeky little buggers”, the women’s game was plagued by a different kind of conversation. It started innocently enough. On Monday we were talking about why women still wear skirts instead of shorts and play three sets instead of five. Some were even linking the latter point to the ongoing pay disparity between male and female athletes. Worthwhile questions were being asked.

By the end of the week we had been virtually crushed by a cavalcade of cringe. Let’s recap. Here are a few things we should completely avoid in the final week of competition.

Eugenie Bouchard And #Twirlgate

If you’re talking to an elite athlete who is ranked seventh in the world in their sport and has just beaten their opponent in convincing 6-0, 6-3 sets in under an hour at one of the most respected competitions in the world, you should probably avoid talking to them like they’re your four-year-old niece at a dress-up party. I’m not much of a sports journo, but I would have assumed that much to be self-evident.

The statement made by Channel 7 reporter Ian Cohen quickly spread like sexist wildfire all around the world and has since been covered by pretty much all local outlets and overseas publications like Jezebel, The New York Times and the player’s native Canadian imprint of The Huffington PostOf course, it wasn’t just the one incident either.

After a match at last year’s Australian Open Bouchard was asked which celebrity she would most like to date. The Herald Sun then ran the headline ‘Canadian tennis glamour girl Eugenie Bouchard says she’d date Justin Bieber’.

This year, as Cohen remarks in the video, Serena Williams was also asked to twirl after her match. “I wouldn’t ask Rafa or Roger to twirl,” Williams has said since. “Whether it’s sexist or not, I don’t know. I can’t answer that.”

Bouchard has made similar statements saying she was not offended by the event. “I’m fine with being asked to twirl if they ask the guys to flex their muscles,” she said.

eugenie2

But the fact that things could be worse, doesn’t mean that they’re acceptable. This kind of questioning is exactly the same type of trivialisation of women’s pursuits that projects like #AskHerMore seek to fight. And really, you know you have a problem with an professional sports tournament is starting to sound like the red carpet of the Golden Globes.

Breaking: Heather Watson Has Her Period

Following her first-round defeat to Bulgarian world number two Tsvetana Pironkova, the 22-year-old British player Heather Watson this week told reporters that she was feeling unwell during the game. Stating she felt dizzy, nauseous and light-headed during the match (where she lost 6-4, 6-0) Watson said, “I think it’s just one of these things that I have, girl things”.

“I get it sometimes. I’m going to go and see the doctor afterwards and see if there’s anything I can do to help with times like these in the future.”

Former world number one Annabel Croft then rushed to her defence calling her “brave” and stating she had broken “the last taboo” by talking about “woman’s monthly issues”. This herculean effort has since been reported in publications all around the world with a litany of quotes from various female athletes stating on the record that they do in fact bleed and yes it can be very annoying.

But with Watson receiving very little backlash for the original comment, it’s difficult to see how much of the ensuing coverage and heartfelt support doesn’t just draw attention to and further enforce the taboo. The fact that a tennis player suffered from period pain should not make more headlines than the sickness of any other athlete. Rafael Nadal also suffered stomach cramps and dizziness while on court this week but it was merely mentioned as a detail in reports that otherwise discussed the match itself.

If someone wants to talk about their heavy flow and their wide-set vagina, more power to ’em.

Marinko “I don’t think that highly of the women’s game” Matosevic  

It’s no secret that Australian player Marinko Matosevic has a problem with women, or at least women in tennis. Last June he spoke out publicly about the fact that Andy Murray had hired a female coach. And, despite the fact that Amelie Mauresmo is a former world number one herself, Matosevic criticised her on account of her gender alone.

“For me, I couldn’t do it since I don’t think that highly of the women’s game,” he said. “It’s all equal rights these days. Got to be politically correct … So, yeah, someone’s got to give it a go. It won’t be me.”

Now, after playing the British female-coached favourite earlier in the week he’s officially out of the competition after getting demolished in three straight sets 6-1, 6-3, 6-2.

This could have been a great moment of redemption for Matosevic. After suffering seven months of criticism for his “pig-headed” words, he could have finally seen the error in his ways. Instead he went with this:

“No, my opinion still hasn’t changed on that, and it won’t be changing,” Matosevic said after the match. “It’s a different sport. I feel like women’s tennis, it’s a different sport to men’s tennis.”

Good. Great. Thanks dude. You’re doing the nation proud.