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Mailbag: Discussing homosexuality, homophobia on the ATP, WTA tours

Jon Wertheim discusses Serena Williams, media's coverage of gay men in the ATP and more in his weekly Mailbag.

Some jottings from vacation. We will have a special oxymoronic guest host Mailbag matron next. Stay tuned for details….And before we start, look out for this week’s SI Tennis podcast, which will go live tomorrow. Owing to the guest—Memphis Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger, a former high school tennis champ—it’s a great listen.

A few Q/A

I just wanted to point out that Serena is even more dominant during her Serena Slam No. 2 than Serena Slam No. 1 because at this current moment she not only holds all four Slams but is the reigning End of Year Tour Champion as well as Olympic Gold Medalist. Also reigning Miami Champion as well (which is often regarded as the biggest tournament outside the Slams).  During Serena Slam No. 1, Serena was beaten by Clijsters in the year-end championships final and was only the reigning gold medalist in doubles with Venus. So my question: Is this the first time ever that a tennis player has ever been the current title holder of four slams, year-end championships and Olympics? Who's come closer, men or women?
K Wong, Sydney, Australia

• Take a look at Steffi’s Graf’s 1988. Note that she not only won Olympic gold that year but did so in Seoul. (We’ve often said that the travel demands of the top players today are an underrated challenge. The days of hopscotching from Miami to Tampa to Hilton Head to Amelia Island are no more.)

But to your point—and leaving aside the Olympics win from three summers ago—Serena’s results over the last 12 months veer on the comical.

Watch List: Nadal returns to action in Hamburg; Isner leads Atlanta field

In your entire professional career, have you never (not even once) looked at [player name redacted] and wondered whether s/he may be juicing? Never?!
Jim Yrkoski, Silver Creek, Neb.

• This is a point I’ve tried to make many times. There is a vast chasm between “wondering” and openly speculating. And those of us who follow—and are constrained at times by—a professional code can’t throw out allegations absent evidence. At least without violating the most basic professional ethics (to say nothing of leaving our employers open to liability.) All those egg avatars on twitter and anonymous cowards in the troll-inhabited comments section can fire away in a way that actual journalists cannot.

Trust me: the folks in the pressroom and broadcast compound share some of your concerns. We see the rapid recoveries. And hear of dubious TUE (therapeutic use exemptions). And lament the ITF’s modest anti-doping budget. And wonder why, when a disgraced Spanish doctor was implicated in a Tour de France doping scandal, the ITF wouldn’t retroactively test samples of tennis players known to be among the doctor’s patients. But absent anything firmer than suspicion and speculation, few of us are in the business of trafficking in perhaps the most serious accusation you can level at an athlete.

Hi Jon, Hope all's well. I have a small question. If Serena Williams goes on to win the U.S. Open this year and thus, the Calendar Year Grand Slam, will her 2014-15 Serena Slam (that just was completed at Wimbledon) count as a record? 

Put it simply: if after she wins the U.S. open, someone asks "how many times Serena Williams has won all four grand slam titles in succession?" Would the answer be twice or thrice? Since her latest Serena Slam and the calendar year grand slam (if she wins the U.S. open) would have duplicates. 
Kayezad E. Adajania, Mumbai

I would say twice. But your question gets at a niggling issue: this “calendar year” is awfully arbitrary. Shouldn't four straight majors be a Grand Slam even if they bridge two years?

Serena's calendar Grand Slam chase and the GOAT debate; more mail

I read your recent column and I think you continue to ignore the homophobia behind the scenes on the ATP tour. Since you are a straight man I am not sure you are aware of the homophobia due to your life experience. You write about homosexuality and men’s tennis yet your comments just prove a straight male reporter should not cover this issue! Jason Collins said he talked to a former ATP player who is gay and thinking of coming out. The ATP tour is anti gay and their comments to the press are PR lip service. The real question is would the ATP tour want a Top 10 player or the No. 1 player to be a gay man? The answer is no! The ATP tour functions on heterosexuality the media always point out the top players’ wives and girlfriends and children. The ATP tour is selling a product to audiences world wide and they do not want gay men to disrupt the product. Do you think the ATP wants one of the younger male tennis stars to come out as gay? On the WTA tour I can name ten lesbians easily. Casey Dellacqua came out as a lesbian a few years ago and it was not big news. I think Sports Illustrated is deceiving tennis fans by just repeating the standard public relations comments. The bottom line is the ATP tour is similar to the NFL—there are high profile NFL players who everyone knows are gay, yet the media protect these closet cases and engender the lie of being inclusive. Please get a gay male reporter to write about this. It is hard to take a heterosexual male journalist such as yourself discussing an issue you have no true understanding about.
Brampton, Ontario, Canada

• I think the notion that you're disqualified from writing about anything about which you have no "internal knowledge" or life experience gets us to an ugly place very quickly.

We’re always open to dissent. Here, specifically, I’m totally open to the suggestion that the climate is less hospitable than I make it out to be. But I have spoken about this with players. And coaches. And gay employees at the ATP. And ITF. There are openly gay chair umpires. And journalists. The consensus: if a top player were to come out, there would be a few knuckleheads but, overwhelmingly, it would be met with acceptance.  (I can also tell you that the top players on the ATP are well aware that gay men make up a not insignificant proportion of their fan bases.)

I actually had a bit of back-and-forth with this writer, asking if he had any evidence—anecdotal or otherwise—to the contrary or was just speaking in vague generalities. He mentioned Sergiy Stakhovsky’s remarks during Wimbledon. My response to that: yes, this would suggest some degree of homophobia in the locker room. It was also a Cannonball-Run style race to who could be first swiftly to denounce Stakhovsky’s comments.

Some day, hopefully soon, this will not be a theoretical discussion. A top ATP player will come out and we can see for ourselves how he will be received.

I was wondering if you had seen this clip from Amy Schumer's show "Inside Amy Schumer" and if so what you thought of it.


I think it's a hilarious (if somewhat exaggerated) view of how the media (not you or the SI team—and I mean that) and large swaths of the general public view women's tennis. Are we ever going to see a day when women's tennis is not viewed from a lens of such ignorance and Chauvinism.
Shalini, New York

• I’m still hung up on seeing Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck and getting caught off guard by Chris Evert’s cameo. But, yes, this is funny, biting and a bit painful to watch.

Serena Williams can join elite group of only five calendar Grand Slam winners

Hello Jon: No question, just a comment. I recall that TV coverage used to wrap up a Slam by running through a reel of memorable images from the event. Sometimes it was the Top 10 shots/rallies, sometimes just fun moments like expressions and reaction shots. I miss that….
Sally, Minneapolis

• Nick Kyrgios shot, Nick Kyrgios antic. Gael Monfils rally. Cutting Maria Sharapova remark. Roger Federer fan with face painted in manner of Swiss flag. Celebrity guest. Alcohol-fueled Aussie fans. Serena Williams lifts trophy. Out. Seriously, that’s a good suggestion. It’s being passed on to the Tennis Channel’s benevolent overlords as soon as we’re through.

But the way, v/v last week’s suggestion that players of classic matches watch a replay and talk us through it….a friend called it to our attention that an NBC producer had the creativity and good judgment to get Borg and McEnroe in the booth during Wimbledon of 2010 and, with Ted Robinson moderating, talked through their finals.

Power Shares Series Tennis: Karlovic vs. Stepanek at The Claro Open last Friday in a 36 and under match.
James, B.

• Nicely played, sir.

Shots, Miscellany

• The 20th annual Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Presented by Hess will be taking place on Saturday, August 29th at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. American Authors, Natalie La Rose, Bea Miller, Kalin & Myles & Jacob Whitesides will team up with 2015 Wimbledon Champion Novak Djokovic and reigning U.S. Open Champion, Marin Cilic to kick-off the 2015 U.S. Open.

Sports Business Journal reports that Jack Sock is now being represented by WME/IMG. He had previously been with CAA.

• Thanks to Jared Shalhoub for this link. “Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, but it almost didn't make it through World War II. Betcha didn't know this part of the All England Club's history.


• Twenty stunning tennis courts to play in your lifetime.

• Louisville will host a new hard court WTA International event the week before the U.S. Open.

• Jonathan Braden: Feel free to share this story if you'd like. It's my take on trying wheelchair tennis, which is very hard.

• Ian Rashid has LLS: Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey) and Benoit Paire (50 Shades of Confounding)