Sunday, July 16, 2017

When champions are snubbed

A very long time ago, Janis Joplin was in her car, trying to find the entrance to a venue for a big Janis Joplin concert. She was stopped by security and told that she was not authorized to drive in the area where she had her car. The security official made it very clear to her that only the star, her band and her official entourage could approach the stage parking lot. Joplin protested, but the security man would have none of it. Finally, exasperating with the driver's disobedience and practically yelling at her, he said, "Listen, I wouldn't let you in here if you were Janis Joplin!"

That's a favorite story of mine, and I thought about it in 2005 when security wouldn't allow Svetlana Kuznetsova into a restricted area of the U.S. Open. The 2004 champion tried to explain who she was, but again, security would have none of it. Finally, Kuznetsova caught a break: She saw a life-size poster of herself as the defending champion, pointed at it, then pointed to herself. She was admitted.

I thought of it again in 2011, when Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon and was barred from entering the All England Club reception area, which leads to the balcony where champions hold the trophy and greet throngs of admirers. Finally, a staff member explained to security personnel that they needed to let Kvitova through because she had just won Wimbledon.

And we can laugh about the "cheekiness" of Jelena Ostapenko's "I'm a grand slam champion!"'s complaints about having her match placed on an out-of-the-way court (one that required a loan of Jelena Jankovic's famous Wimbledon helicopter), but it isn't really funny. The newly crowned French Open champion deserved at least a little special treatment. I have to wonder if the schedulers even knew who she was. In the recent past, Wimbledon officials have not known the names of important female players and have published and spoken them incorrectly.

Also, Wimbledon has a "tradition" of snubbing important female players when it comes to scheduling, including their past champions, like five-time champion Venus Williams.

In 2013, The Times bitterly opined that the ladies' quarterfinals were going to be played by "the women you've never heard of." Those women included 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli (who would go on to win the tournament), French Open champion Li Na, the previous year's runner-up, Agnieszka Radwanska, and 2011 Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova. This was an outrageous statement, but The Times was given a pass.

The problem of snubbing female champions, especially at Wimbledon, is one that needs to be addressed. But then, there are endless problems related to sexism toward the WTA that need to be addressed, and they almost never are.

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