Tennis star Naomi Osaka, wearing a red hat, black tank top, and black shorts, hits a tennis ball with a forehand swing.
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the 2021 French Open after winning her first round match (photo by Peter Menzel CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tennis star Naomi Osaka declared she would not participate in press conferences prior to the 2021 French Open. Reactions to her refusal were filled with anger and criticism. In a deleted tweet, Roland Garros posted images of athletes doing press work with the text, “They understood the assignment.” Early reporting provided lip-service to Osaka’s concern for her own mental health while emphasizing other players, such Rafael Nadal, disagreed with her. Similarly, tennis icon Billie Jean King criticized Osaka for avoiding media since the press helps build the sport. Others characterized her as a self-centered, childish millennial unwilling to sacrifice like other athletes. And after assessing a $15,000 fine for not meeting contractual media obligations, she was further threatened with suspension from other major tournaments.

Click here to read the full article...

Arthur Ashe reaches for a backhand
Arthur Ashe took an active role in the U.S. Civil Rights movement and in efforts to end South African apartheid. (image via CMG Worldwide)

In recent decades, sport has become recognized increasingly as an important site through which to examine broader society, including its history, culture and politics. Since the 1960s, sociologists and historians have been researching sport and leisure practices in a serious, scholarly way, with their attention initially drawn to the global, mass-spectator team sports of soccer, baseball, cricket, rugby, (American) football and basketball. The sports of golf, track-and-field, ice hockey and horse-racing also received scholarly attention, but the omission of tennis from early academic scrutiny was one “research gap” that caught the attention of social scientists. In 1983, historian William J. Baker, in a summary paper on the state of British sport history, described the scholarly marginalization of tennis as “one of the most baffling gaps in the entire literature.” The same was certainly true in North American sport history, yet only modest advances were made in the initial years following Baker’s astute observation.

Click here to read the full article...

Stadium 2, Indian Wells. Photo by Courtney Szto.

*Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole*

I recently visited Palm Springs/Indian Wells, California to see the BNP Paribas Open. For non-tennis aficionados the BNP Paribas Open (more commonly referred to simply as Indian Wells) has been unofficially titled the “Fifth Grand Slam” (AKA major tournament) of the professional tennis circuit because of it’s prestige as a title, the fact that both the men’s and women’s tours play concurrently, and the amenities available to the players and fans.  In doing my trip planning I stumbled upon some of the tourist appropriate history of Palm Springs:

More than 2,000 years ago, Palm Springs’ first residents were the ancestors of today’s Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. One of the many Cahuilla bans, the Agua Caliente existed as peaceful hunters and gatherers, living off the land, and adapting to the extremes of desert summers and mountain winters…The Cahuilla tribe first encountered non-Indians in 1774, as Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition traveled through the area. In 1853, a government survey party mapped Palm Springs and its natural hot springs mineral pool – now the site of the Spa Resort Casino – and established the first wagon route through the San Gorgonio Pass.  The Cahuilla culture was decimated with the 1863 smallpox epidemic that killed thousands.

In 1877 as an incentive to complete a railroad to the Pacific, the U.S. government gave Southern Pacific Railroad title to the odd-numbered parcels of land for ten miles on either side of the tracks running through the Southern California desert around Palm Springs…

The even-numbered parcels of land were given to the Agua Caliente, yet federal law prohibited them from leasing or selling the land to derive income from it. (Visit Palm Springs)

Click here to read the full article...

Left to Right: Hans D’Orville (Assistant Director-General for Strategic Planning, UNESCO), Larry Scott (then CEO for the WTA), Billie Jean King, Vera Zvonareva (athlete ambassador).

Professional tennis, like every other “good” sporting organization, does its part to “give back” to the communities with which it interacts. If you’re a fan of women’s tennis you may have noticed that the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) donates money for every ace that a player hits during a season. Some of the aficionados may know that former World #1 and teenage phenom, Martina Hingis, was an ambassador for polio eradication. You might even know that the WTA has worked with Habitat for Humanity International and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. But I’m willing to bet that even the most ardent tennis fan doesn’t know that ten yeas ago, the WTA started a partnership with UNESCO in the hopes of achieving Global Gender Equality.

Click here to read the full article...

Photo from Deadspin. Taken by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

The recently knighted Scotsman and new world-number-one-ranked tennis player, Andy Murray, will be entering the Australian Open with his confidence sky-high, looking to start this year just as he ended the last. After defeating Novak Djokovic in the end-of-season ATP Tour final in November and, perhaps most crucially, in the process, finishing above him in the world rankings, this might represent Murray’s best chance of winning “down under” after eleven previous attempts. In the event’s history, Murray is one of the best players ever to have not won here, despite reaching five finals (2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016). All except for 2010 when he lost to Roger Federer, Murray has been defeated by Djokovic. This year, for a change, Murray will enter the event as top-seed and favourite, which is a position he has tended to relish.

Click here to read the full article...