Do Angry Tennis Players Discriminate?

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It’s US Open time and the New York media is paying plenty of attention to what the NYT calls “two extended tantrums over foot-fault calls in the last two years in Arthur Ashe Stadium,” namely the Serena Williams incident last year (see NY Post coverage here) and Andy Roddick’s interchange with a line umpire earlier this week (see NYT here).

Filip Bondy, writing for today’s New York Daily News, offers a perspective on the Roddick incident. In his article, “Andy Roddick’s Tantrum at U.S. Open is a Reminder of how Tennis Players Treat Lineswomen Unfairly,” Bondy says:

And after too many examples of this in recent years, by too many players, you now have to wonder whether Roddick would have done the same if it were a man who called him on the foot fault.

Because it sure didn’t look that way, when he got buddy-buddy with the chair umpire and pardoned a male lines judge for the same call, minutes later.

This is how the silliness started: Roddick clearly, clumsily stepped on the service line during a relatively meaningless first serve and was correctly called for a foot fault. Out of sheer petulance, he then demanded to know which foot was the offender.

Roddick knew the answer of course. It was the left, his natural takeoff foot. But the flustered lines judge answered it was his right foot, and so Roddick harassed the poor woman for no good reason, game after game, questioning her intelligence. It came across as the long-winded action of a bully who has lost his way on a tennis court, who can’t seem to seize points anymore and likely will never win a second major in his front-loaded career.

Roddick, frustrated on his way to an otherwise spiritless four-set loss to Janko Tipsarevic, wouldn’t stop his bashing. The male chair umpire, Enric Molina, allowed it to continue unabated, with no code violation. Molina even seemed to encourage this nonsense on one occasion, agreeing with Roddick that his right foot had never crossed the line in any of the matches he had umpired.

It was all a pathetic scene – two old pals ganging up on one woman doing her job. And when Roddick was called on his next foot fault by a male judge, he simply put thumbs up and continued on his merry way.

The full article is here.

The NYT reports that at the invitation of the USTA, Patrick McEnroe spoke to a group of line umpires.  When asked if players treat female line umpires differently from male line umpires, McEnroe “shook his head.”

“So, players hate all umpires?” the woman said.

“Yes,” he said. “Men, women, black, yellow, white.”

Everyone had a good laugh and soon after trudged out to the courts for another long day…..

Sounds to me like there’s an empirical project here for someone interested in employment discrimination, women in sports or even psychology.  The USTA should sponsor it.

-Bridget Crawford

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