Does Friendship on the WTA Tour Exist?

2016 has just begun and WTA drama is already afloat. When it comes to drama the WTA never seems to disappoint; all the women seem to be out to get each other. This begs the question: are there really friendships on the WTA tour?

World #3 Garbiñe Muguruza answers this question with an affirmative no. In a recent interview, she states: “we all hate each other, literally, and who says the opposite is lying. We are all very competitive and we spend all the time traveling, it’s not easy to make friends. Then the next day we are all facing each other on court. For ATP players it’s different. You can see them talking and having fun together but girls…they all hate each other.”

Does Friendship on the WTA Tour Exist?

On this week’s episode of WTA drama, during the second set tiebreaker between Naomi Broady and Jelena Ostapenko in the second round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, Ostapenko let her racket fly and it hit one of the ball boys. Although she claims it was an accident, Broady believed she should be defaulted. Even after the match was finished, Broady would not let her go easily and continued to lecture her about what she did resulting one of the more interesting handshakes in past few years. Although this indefinitely caused permanent damage to their relationship, they were seen practicing with each other just a week earlier.

Time to take a trip down memory lane to one of the more famous spats in women’s tennis between Conchita Martinez and Patty Schnyder during 2004 Charleston. Schnyder started to complain about the amount of time Martinez took in between points. She refused to give her balls while she a serving, and faked her out at the net after the match. In an interview she stated that one of her biggest mistakes was that “I once mistook Conchita for a human being.”

Former world #1 Martina Hingis always seemed to be on edge with another player. On the eve of her 1999 Australian Open final against Amelie Mauresmo, she referred to her as “half a man.” Playing against Steffi Graf during the 1999 Roland Garros final, she heavily disputed a line call in which forced her to go toe to toe mentally not only with her opponent but the crowd too. On match point for Graf, the crowd booed Hingis as she attempted an underarm serve. After a series of Hingis complaints to the chair umpire, Steffi went up and stated “are we going to play tennis or we just talking a little bit?” The handshake was brief and Hingis was quickly off the court.The arrival of the Williams Sisters seemed to fuel the Hingis fire even more though. During the 1999 US Open, Serena accused Hingis of “lacking a formal education” after the latter accused the sisters of running their mouths.

Gathering from this information, one may conclude that it is difficult for women to be friends on tour, especially compared to the men who all appear to be friends. But are the men really friends themselves? It can be argued that the only reason the men appear to get along better than the women is simply because they have better PR training. During the 2015 Australian Open final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, Murray became visibly upset as he claimed his opponent’s limping around the the court was distracting him. Despite that, they had a reasonable embrace at the net after Djokovic won. However, the embracing seemed to be for their own reputations as Murray remained visibly upset after the match as well. Federer and Djokovic have also come to blows multiple times throughout their rivalry as well. After their first ever meeting dating back a decade ago, Federer admitted that he was impressed with Djokovic. A few years later, Federer complained that Djokovic’s parents were distracting him during their match in Monte Carlo. In London this year, Federer sat in Djokovic’s chair as he came onto court, being ignorant of the rules that there were assigned chairs. After the match, Djokovic admitted that he gifted Federer the match.

As it can be seen, conflict is not exclusive to the women. In fact, friendships, contrary to what Muguruza might think, are not exclusive to the men. Serena Williams and Caroline Woniacki have become exceptionally close after the latter split with her boyfriend Rory McIlroy. The two were even seen out in New York together following their US Open final in 2014. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, called by many critics as the greatest rivalry of all time, also consider themselves very close friends. After matches, they claimed that the winner would often console the loser in the locker room. They carried their friendship onto their post-retirement lives.

So while more drama is evident on the WTA tour, it is not exclusive to them. Friendships are also very prevalent among the WTA drama.

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