Tennis, Racism and the Politically Correct

Danny Hayes

     Once again some politically correct "beat writer" rears political correctness' ugly head.  This time it's Selena Roberts of the New York Times. 

     If you're blonde and you play tennis then you're nothing more than a side show according to Selena.  I mean after all isn't Anna the epitome of what's wrong with tennis?  The way Selena describes it that's what you would think.  Never mind that Anna puts more butts in seats than the Williams sisters, Capriati, Davenport (and list any other 5 player you like to go along with this group) combined.  Especially in the early rounds.  They all aren't middle aged men either.  There are a lot of young men and young women in the crowd.  In Charleston, S.C. earlier this year (2003), Anna attracted the young girls the way Brittney does in the music biz.  I didn't see that many middle aged men watching Anna practice.

     Next, Selena wants to blame the USTA, the WTA and any other organization she can implicate, without actually naming them, as the culprits of all the hype players like Anna receive.  None of the above actually are at fault.  In fact it is Selena's profession itself, that is guilty of all the hype and the publication of the same.  No coach is looking for the next Kournikova.  According to Selena, they all are looking for the next Kournikova.  Yet it was US magazine that dubbed Ashley Harkleroad "American Anna."  It wasn't Ashley, it wasn't her dad nor was it her management that dubbed her "Kourni-copy."  It was Selena's peers that started that hype.  All of it not fair to Anna or Ashley and now Selena wants to write a column criticizing the pair and blaming the USTA for promoting Ashley, America's number one youngster on the rise by the way.

     According to Selena if your blonde then they want to hype you.  Really?  Let's look at the #1 players over the last 30 years and see what we find.  The Williams Sisters, both brunettes, right?  Davenport and Capriati, again brunettes! Although you could make the case Davenport is "dishwater" blonde and not really a brunette.  Hingis also a brunette and there was Sanchez-Vicario also a brunette.  What about the current #1?  Clisters, is she a brunette?  Nope, Blonde!  Tracy Austin, you guessed it, blonde! Monica Seles, blonde! Chris Evert, also blonde. Then arguably two of the greatest players ever, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova both very blonde.  This, of course, is clearly a conspiracy by the USTA.  After all, they put Ashley Harkleroad on Arthur Ashe stadium, only because she was blonde.

     Selena implies racism all through the second half of the article and uses Ashley Harkleroad as proof.  She proves her point, allegedly, by pointing out that Ashley lost and that Ashley lost her temper at one point in the match.  She doesn't mention the fact that Ashley lost to another "blonde" Vera Zvonareva.  Instead she wonders aloud why Angela Haynes was placed on court eleven.  It must have been racism and/or the USTA's desire to have "babes" play on center court according to Selena.

     It couldn't have been that Ashley has more star power on her on than Angela at this stage could it?  It couldn't have been that Zvonareva was seeded could it?  It surely couldn't be that they were behind on Armstrong stadium where the match was originally scheduled to be played and they needed a match on center court could it?  No, of course, it wasn't, it was babe promotion and racism all in one.  Well, it was if you believe this politically correct writer.

     First of all Ashley is ranked 51 while Angela Haynes is only 221 and as little as six months ago was around 550.  Yep, she deserved the court more than Ashley did.  Now don't misunderstand.  Angela is on the rise and has the goods I think but for this opinion piece I think you see the point.  She hasn't progressed as far as Ashley has, and she was playing another nobody and still lost badly in the first round.  Next, when Ashley debuted as a wildcard only the draw put her on center court as she played a seeded player in the opening round.  Finally Ashley has a big following already, Angela doesn't.  www.harkleroad.net had over 99,000 hits during the French Open and 188,000 during the  month of June.  No one has heard of Angela yet.

     In an interview with Angela Haynes father he mentioned racism.  I'm sorry that Angela had to grow up with someone who has such a chip on his shoulder and automatically assumes everything is racism.  If you're black and you don't get something then it's automatic.  He then mentioned to Selena that "people love good tennis.  That's what it should be about."  Well clearly his motivation isn't tennis, it's race.  Ashley would kick Angela's butt up one side of the court and down the other but she's blonde so it's racism.  Ashley does have game so Angela's fathers words as well as Selena's should fall on deaf ears or at least be recognized for the political correctness that they spew.

     Selena also has to make the point that; "Like the Williams sisters, Haynes is beautiful and smart..."  Well I agree on one point.  She is smart, however she is a lot prettier than either of the Williams sisters, both of which are anything but beautiful.  I will even agree, Angela is very nice looking.  I thought Selena didn't like the USTA to promote "babes." so I'm wondering what her point was suppose to be here.

     Next Selena wants to jump on another politically correct bandwagon and the age limitation.  She accuses the WTA of thinking about relaxing it's age limitation solely because of another blonde superstar on the rise, Maria Sharapova.  What is Selena stupid or something?  One thing is for sure, Selena knows nothing about the "stars" on the rise.  Viktoria Kutuzova is the blonde superstar on the rise but I'll bet Selena has never even heard of her.  Kutuzova is only 14 and is already 270 in the world, not that far behind Haynes at 18 years of age.  Sharapova is going to be a star, so is Kutuzova and Haynes has to potential.  So what does the age limit have to do with it? 

     Selena says that relaxing the age limit is a code word for "we're desperate."  If you read her whole article you would assume it was only to find someone to unseat the Williams, because, of course, racism.  Once again Selena shows her lack of tennis knowledge.  Chrissie, Steffi, Martina, Martina, Monica all made there splash at 15 or 16.  Jennifer was 14.  Anna was 15.  Women just are able to reach the peak level of tennis at an early age.  Maybe the WTA recognizes that fact.  Maybe it is because they need more stars, I don't really think so but why not see the best players when they are ready.  The Capriati burn out and now the Hingis burn out are cited as reasons for the age rule.  Chrissie, didn't burn out, Steffi didn't burn out and Martina is still playing.  It was an experiment, they need to tweak it some.  Don't let the youngsters play 30 tournaments but let them play 17 at least, so they can have the points to show their wares. 

     Selena thinks it's so the WTA can show off pixies and Lolita's. What a bunch of baloney.  Sharapova is really neither and when all the other youngsters where coming along, they weren't either, ten years ago.  Anna shows up, gets some modeling jobs to go with her tennis and all the sudden tennis is allegedly only about sex appeal.  One girl changed all that and brought racism to the fore front.  You don't really believe that do you?

    Finally, Selena has to address diversity, which is what this was really all about.  She demagogs Anna and Ashley to promote diversity as if the world is going to hell in a hand basket without it.  See, Selena's piece was really about promoting diversity and racism and not about tennis.  If it was about tennis she would know that despite the fact that the best tennis players over the last thirty years have largely all been blondes, she would know that tennis really isn't about hair color or skin color.  Diversity is fine, and most Americans welcome it.  If you've ever seen Angela Haynes play you know her game is much more graceful than either of the Williams sisters and she is fun to watch. I pull for her because she's an American and because I like her game.  Not because she's black or because she's diverse.  Angela just hasn't been able to pull it together as easily as the Williams were able too.  It's not about race.

     Anna Kournikova, however has been the best thing to happen to tennis since the T-2000 hit the scene.  People want to see her play and not just because she is pretty.  Then what happens is people recognize the quality of the sport.  They attend other events.  The Williams sisters nor Anna are in the Open this year but once again we have new attendance records.  You can thank Anna for that.  Ashley has the same presence on the court, it really not about her looks but there is just a presence that she has.  She was born with it.  Not a lot of people have it.  Anna has it, Ashley has it and I'm sure some others do too.  It's not because they are blonde, that is just a coincidence.

     One thing Selena and Angela Haynes father did get right.  Tennis is still a rich persons sport.  It's clearly not about race or someone trying to discriminate.  If Selena followed the ITF tour she would understand that point.  The funny thing about it all however, Ashley, Anna nor the Williams, families had any money.  The four of them are that good.  They got sponsors.  So if your get is good enough, don't worry about anything else, including political correctness and especially race.

  Well Ashley took some time off and has climbed back into the top 100 since this article was first written.  In the mean time Angela Haynes still struggles out on the ITF tour where it has become very apparent to us who get out and follow the USTA/ITF tour that Angela's main problem is her dad.  He berates after every match.  After a loss in Dothan this year he bitched her out for over an hour and they weren't talking ground strokes.