Tennis and controversy go together like peanut butter and jelly, and there’s been some offered this past weekend at the French Open.
On Saturday, after her straight-sets loss to Sofia Kenin (6-2 7-5), Serena Williams was placed in the center of criticism on social media for displacing Dominic Thiem from his place at the post-match media center table. Thiem, of Austria, had beaten Pablo Cuevas earlier in the day (6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5) and was in middle of answering the media’s questions, when tournament staffers asked Thiem to vacate the room.
Thiem went on to have a discussion with the staffer that was caught on the hot mic and was passed around social media. When it was indicated that he was moved off for Serena, Thiem felt disrespected and felt she should’ve had to wait, despite that Serena wanted to fulfill her obligation hastily.
— theScore (@theScore) June 1, 2019
For Williams, her lasting impressions on the court, other than her big tournament wins, has been the outbursts she’s made at the US Open. Just last year, her loss to Naomi Osaka in the championship match made waves around the world, and reinforced the idea that, no matter how inadvertent the manner is, she has wound up snatching the spotlight away from her fellow players. This is far from the only time that Serena Williams has pushed herself over another player, and there is an argument that the outcry is warranted.
Williams has not commented on the situation. Thiem has, and no matter how much it appears that he is going after Serena, he has every right to be salty.
— Rush 🐠 (@drivevolleys) June 2, 2019
Hours after both Thiem and Williams had faced the press, more details came in on how this change-of-plans happened.
Serena Apparently Asked To Be Seated In A Seperate Room, Not Thiem’s
Tumaini Carayol, reporter for Tennis View Magazine and elsewhere, tweeted that Serena asked to be interviewed in a secondary room and insisted that she didn’t ask Thiem to leave. Williams indicated she didn’t want to wait, as many who’ve been eliminated wouldn’t care to either. Moreover, Fox Sports Asia mentioned a source who heard Serena state “It is rude,” referring to her possibly cutting into Thiem’s time at the stand.
After playing an exhausting match against Kenin, could Williams know exactly who was at the stand, and exactly how quickly she had to put her equipment away so she wouldn’t either wait longer to be interviewed or to cut off someone like Thiem?
The French Open Staffers Have To Face Questions
Anybody who has had the privilege of running any scale of event, whether it is a fundraiser, a sports stars’ meet and greet, or even a wedding, can grasp the beauty of attention to detail–from making sure your guests of honor are fed, to that the bathrooms are properly stocked with toiletries, to so much more. The staff and tournament officials at Roland Garros, including the players’ publicists, public relations agents, are experienced in facilitating players meeting with media after a match, among many other things. It is utterly mind-boggling that they wound up making a switch-up at the stand, like the one they did on Saturday. Even if Serena or anyone wanted their camera time, it falls on the staffers to tell that person to wait, or respect the winner who deserved the camera time, and not displace him.
For the people on social media who still believe Serena had a hand in this debacle, the question to focus on is “Does Serena Always Get What She Wants?” The fact is, umpire Carlos Ramos, who presided over her US Open Final, that Williams called “a thief,” is still working matches, and Serena didn’t get to answer questions in Room 2 on Saturday. When is the focus going to turn on the folks at Roland Garros?
The French Open had a chance to say the last words, to Serena. They chose not to say “no” or “wait.” Shouldn’t they bear far more blame than Serena Williams?
Main Photo from Getty