Players will not Bow to the Boos of the Crowd
Tennis is a chivalrous sport. The shaking of hands after a match, no cheering of a double fault, the condemnation for showing emotion on court (Andy Murray for years was considered too grumpy). Yes there are a few exceptions, John McEnroe, or for those of you born after 2000, Nick Kyrgios, but as a whole the players, and the fans, behave themselves. However, it seems as thought the US Open crowds missed the memo.
During the 2018 Ladies Singles Final, Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos had a series of altercations in the 2nd set. Naomi Osaka, Serena’s opponent, won the match, after comfortably winning the first set before any incident occured. At the conclusion of the match, the crowd booed at the supposed injustice ahown towards their native player Serena. This however continued well into the trophy presentation, with Osaka hiding behind her visor at times, and concluded only with Williams asking the crowd to do so.
If we switch our attention to this years event, there have already been a handful of similar incidents. To begin with, when Johanna Konta played her 1st round match against Daria Kasatkina, she claimed the first set with ease. The Russian picked it up in the second set, and after a few couple of ‘overruled’ lines calls, Konta was not impressed. This was brought to it’s climax when Konta hit a winner, which was then called ‘Out’, but after a challenge from Konta, was subsequently ‘In’. Much to the Brits dismay, they were then asked to reply the point. The disagreement that followed with the umpire was met with a serious of ‘Boos’ from the crowd at the delay to the matches procedings. It turned out to be a costly ruling for Konta, with Kastakina taking the game and then the set. Konta had a right to argue the decision, eventhough it would unlikely have resulted in any change in the umpires decision. The question is then, should the crowd be ‘booing’ a few minute interval, when a player believes (correctly) that the umpire and line judges have made a series of bad calls.
Move onto Friday, Daniil Medvedev is up against Feliciano Lopez. The Russian, snatches a towel from the ballboy, upsetting the crowd. In response, Medvedev slyly shows the crowd the middle finger, which afterwards in an interview he said “I was an idiot, to be honest. I did some things that I’m not proud of and that I’m working on to be a better person on the court” however at the time, that turned the crowd against him. Medvedev did not behave the best, but the question remains, as tennis is an individual sport, there shouldn’t be enemies or rivals for the fans. Of course there will be favourites of the crowd dependent on location, the players actions, or if you are Roger Federer (every crowd loves Federer). That should however result in only cheers when the popular player wins, not contempt and jeers from the crowd when the opposing player does.
The final instance has to be the biggest one. Second week of the US Open. Djokovic vs Wawrinka. Two multiple Grand Slam champions facing off, what a match it will be. Unfortunately, not quite. Stan started strong, taking the first 2 sets, whilst Djokovic seemed to be struggling off his dominant backhand side. In the 3rd set, the 16 time major champion called it a day and retired the match. Now instead of noticing that a great champion and fighter had to bow out of one of the biggest events of the year, the crowd were not happy, with which, the booing began. Former and current players have come out in support of Novak, condemning the crowd. Not only because his previous achievements, but also due to the fact that he is a tennis player who must protect his body, as a long term injury can cause many problems. In a match that he is unlikely to win, struggling to play, why would he carry on? The remaining tennis that the crowd would witness had he carried on, certainly wouldn’t be at the level they had expected from former champions of the Open, and could have cost the Serb a lot more in the long term.
It sadly goes to show that the fans interest is not in the players, and they hold very little respect for them. Tennis requires the fans to fund the prize money and events, but on the other hand the fans must respect that for the players it is their job, their livelihood, so sometimes they will act out, argue or have to retire. It may not be the same in every office, but I know if I brought up a point I disagreed with, or had to go home early as I was unwell, I wouldn’t be booed as I walked out the door. Part of being in the public eye, a celebrity, as tennis players are, is that you will have people who don’t like you, eventhough they have never met you. That is something they have to deal with, but suffering from the level of
taunting that Osaka had to suffer in her greatest moment last year, can be psychologically damaging. Sadly these incidents are becoming far too familiar at Flushing Meadows, and all we can hope for is that they end, promptly.