The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Lindsay Gibbs, May 7, 2019
Justing Gimelstob and toxic masculinity -- maiden title winners -- Naomi Osaka's newfound love of clay
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Justing Gimelstob and toxic masculinity
Hi friends. First of all, transparency: As you are reading this, I am on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico! But, since here at The IX there are no days off for our subscribers, I am writing this on Sunday night. If anything big happens in the tennis world on Monday or early Tuesday, have no fear: I will cover it next week.
But, before I go on vacation, I want to address a subject that I’ve tried not to talk about too much in this space: Justin Gimelstob, and the way that the tennis world has completely enabled him. I’ve avoided it because I hate the thought of giving this man space in a newsletter dedicated to women’s tennis, but truthfully, this is about much more than just Gimelstob; it’s about the way that toxic masculinity still festers in this sport, and the way that so many — including at times the WTA itself — enable it.
A brief recap, for those who have been lucky enough to avoid this topic: Gimelstob was a mediocre pro tennis player, who somehow leveraged his journeyman career into an afterlife as one of the most powerful brokers in tennis — a broadcaster, producer, manager, coach, and ATP board member, all in one.
He’s also a violent misogynist. As I wrote in ThinkProgress last week, his comments about Anna Kournikova back in 2008 should have made him a tennis pariah for life, they were that awful — among other things, in a public radio interview, the then-31-year-old said about Kournikova, “She’s a bitch. Hate’s a very strong word. I just despise her to the maximum level just below hate.” He’s been accused of domestic violence against his ex-wife, and last Halloween, he attacked a friend of his ex-wife’s during trick or treating and punched him 50 times in front of this man’s pregnant wife and son, all while yelling, “I’m going to fucking kill you.”
Two weeks ago, Gimelstob pleaded “no contest” to misdemeanor assault charges. The judge explicitly stated he considered this a guilty plea. Despite all of this, nobody in tennis did anything. It took days of public backlash anyone in the tennis community to speak out against him, and over a week for Gimelstob to announce that he was stepping down from the ATP board of directors and Tennis Channel.
I’m sure the tennis powers-that-be are hoping that with Gimelstob out of sight, the topic can be buried. But frankly, the fact that he was allowed to tender his own resignations is an abomination. This should be the start of a conversation, not the end of one.
Why was a man who had expressed such hatred and disdain for women allowed to rise to power in a sport that praises itself for its gender equality? Why was Gimelstob allowed to hold so many conflicting jobs in tennis at once? Why, once the details of his Halloween assault became public a few months ago, didn’t everyone in tennis — from Roger Federer to the Bryan Brothers to Serena Williams to Billie Jean King herself — stay completely silent? Why didn’t the WTA automatically step up and ban Gimelstob from the grounds of tournaments it runs? So many players and journalists and tournament staff and even fans were put in such an untenable, potentially even dangerous, position because those that really had power in the sport decided to bite their tongues. Honestly, this whole saga has left me with more questions than answers.
I’ll let the words of Stanislas Wawrinka — a three-time major champion on the men’s side who issued the strongest rebuke of Gimelstob this past week — close things out.
”There is no place in our sport for those who behave like Justin. The lack of responses from people involved in the game, particularly at the beginning of this saga, when he was charged last December, was alarming,” he said. ”This is a situation where silence amounts to complicity.”
This Week in Tennis
Jil Teichmann defeated Karolína Muchová in the Prague final, 7–6(5), 3–6, 6–4. The 21-year-old qualifier won eight matches in eight days to win her first WTA title, and to become the lowest-ranked title winner this season, at No. 146 in the world.
In Morocco, Maria Sakkari defeated Johanna Konta to win her maiden title, 2–6, 6–4, 6–1. Here’s the Greek City Times on the win, which was the first WTA title by a Greek player in 11 years.
My must-read of the week is this Courtney Nguyen article on the new partnership between Kristina Mladenovic and Sascha Bajin.
Karolina Pliskova is no longer working with Rennae Stubbs, and has promoted Conchita Martinez to her full-time coach.
Jon Wertheim talks tennis and sports gambling.
Wim Fissette says the old Vika is back.
Svetlana Kuznetsova gets the first Top 10 win of her comeback in Madrid, taking down No. 10 Aryna Sabalenka.
Sloane Stephens hires Sven Groeneveld.
And Stephens has a lot of thoughts on Game of Thrones.
Naomi Osaka has a new partnership with MasterCard.
More proof that Lucie Safarova is a saint.
The Madrid draw is absolutely loaded. Keep up with everything here.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Naomi Osaka in Madrid
Naomi Osaka is finding her footing on clay, and after her second-round win over Dominika Cibulkova, she spoke with reporters in Madrid about her newfound love of sliding, the Met gala, and her dream partnerships.
Q. Just having to battle back in each one of those sets, what were you trying to tell yourself because it seemed like, especially on the second serve, you didn’t want to give her too many looks there, but that obviously puts a lot of pressure on the first serve?
NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean — I don’t know. I was just thinking, like, honestly, the match I played against Donna helped me a lot mentally. I was thinking it’s fine if I’m down 2-0 because I have been down 5-1 before and I have come back so I just need to stay calm.
Yeah, I was — I was also kind of thinking, like, there is nowhere else I’d rather be and honestly I train for these moments so I have to give it 100 percent.
Q. Talking about movement, you mentioned last year that you kind of didn’t like sliding as much on clay as you do on hard-courts. Just how are you feeling about that aspect of it now?
NAOMI OSAKA: Well, for me it’s fun now. I’m like skip, skip (laughing)! Yeah, I mean, I feel like there’s, like, an adjustment period for me and it took a few years. But now I’m more comfortable on it. I’m not sure if it’s because I had a really long training block before I came to start the season, but yeah, it feels good.
Q. So, just a non-tennis-related question. How much do you pay attention, or have you paid attention over the course of your long life to the Met Gala? And is that something because it’s happening tomorrow, so I’m curious your thoughts on that? Is that an event that you would like to attend one day, or is it an event that looks terrifying to go to?
NAOMI OSAKA: A little bit of both (laughing). I I feel like it would be fun to go to, but then I would have to talk to people and we all know that I don’t like doing that (smiling). It looks really, like, you have to do it once in your life if you have the chance. And I pay attention to it because I like clothes so seeing like — it’s usually Rihanna, she usually does something crazy and she is always really beautiful. I pay attention to it only to see everyone’s outfits.
Q. I guess your visor looked a little bit different today so congratulations on the partnership. So in terms of the — what’s it like to be you right now, to kind of have these major companies be reaching out to you and wanting to partner with you and kind of work with you and what should we expect with MasterCard?
NAOMI OSAKA: For me, I just focus on playing tennis. Thankfully, I have a really awesome agent and he sort of deals with more of that stuff for me. It’s — I’m super-honored that I got the opportunity to do this and to wear the patch on my visor. Yeah, just looking forward to a lot of clothes stuff because the official announcement’s, like, during the French Open.
Q. Is there any, like, random other type of sponsorship deals that you would want, like an official popcorn partner or something? Anything that would make your life much easier?
NAOMI OSAKA: Water, I drink a lot of water. Yeah, maybe water or something that I use a lot. Contact solution (laughing). I don’t know!