Sexism, Heckling Ignite Controversies Among Tennis Players Before the Davis Cup


The Davis Cup trophyJust weeks after the Russian Tennis Federation president insulted athletes Serena and Venus Williams by referring to them as the “Williams brothers” on TV, another sexism scandal has cropped up in the world of tennis.

World champion Rafael Nadal, currently ranked #3 with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), hit back at the appointment of Gala Leon as the first female Davis Cup captain, saying that it fed into a “false and absurd” debate over sexism in tennis.

The conflict began when Nadal’s coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, commented in September that it would be “preferable” that the captain for the Davis Cup would be “someone with a background in the world of men’s tennis” — in other words, a man.

The comments were decried as sexist by the media and many of Spain’s politicians.

Nadal then told members of the media that it was “strange” to him and that Leon “has incited and fed a debate that is totally false and absurd.”

Leon has begun meeting with Spanish players, but hasn’t spoken with Nadal.

When asked for comment by the media, Leon said of Nadal, “I’m not going to ask for forgiveness for being a woman.” She referred to her meetings so far as “constructive” and “professional.”

Nadal had his appendix removed this month, taking him off the court for the ATP finals. He still plans to play in the Davis Cup, despite his personal objections to Leon as coach.

The words among Spanish tennis professionals don’t represent the only recent scandal among players just shy of the Davis Cup. Just this weekend, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka argued after their ATP World Tour Semifinal.

Federer’s wife, Mirka, allegedly called out at Wawrinka after his serve. Wawrinka is seen on video upset over the heckling after Mirka appeared to call him a “crybaby.”

“Some people just sort of get lost in time. As life and cultures change for the better, there are those that fail to adjust and for whatever reason they don’t understand that that way of thinking is inappropriate — especially in a professional sports settling,” explains Mike Cash, Managing Direct at Cityview Racquet Club. “It’s not about sex at all, it’s about athletic ability and individual talent, which should negate all negative thoughts.”

Federer and Wawrinka are rumored to have exchanged words “well into the night,” according to John McEnroe in a report on ESPN.

Federer and Wawrinka are scheduled to lead Switzerland in the Davis Cup final on Friday, playing against France.

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