Monday, September 6, 2010

"NO one's from Estonia"

Last year, Pam Shriver got into some trouble by dismissing U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer as more or less a nobody, and Belgium as more or less nowhere. Today, it was Wickmayer's opponent who got the treatment. Doug Adler, responding to Virginia Wade's comment that Kaia Kanepi was a shy person, said "Of course she's shy--she's from Estonia. No one's from Estonia."

It wasn't a terrible thing to say, but it reflects an almost consistent attitude that U.S. commentators have--that other countries have names that are "hard to pronounce," that other countries are not important. And--given all the comments made by commentators that are sexist, and that reflect a total ignorance of women's tennis--a little put-down of Estonia is a not-too-funny joke that perhaps isn't that significant.

I mention it, though, not because it's that disturbing, but rather, because it is representative of dozens of thoughtlescomments made by tennis commentators and writers. From Tracy Austin's patronizing description of players as "young ladies" to commentators calling 20-something-year-old women "girls" to Tim Henman's (successful) attempt to get ATP players to trash the WTA, to the mockery of players' names on both tours, it's often hard to keep the sound on.

Having said all that, it's only fair for me to also say that--except for one or two notable occasions--I think Pam Shriver is one the best commentators around. She's knowledgeable, witty, and, in the last couple of years, has become outspoken about bigotry directed toward women. I missed her this weekend, but she'll be back for the second week of the U.S. Open.

And she won't have to face Yanina Wickmayer.

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