As the NFL hurtles headlong into its season and into late-stage capitalism, with linebackers getting busted for insider trading, skilled workers going to court to show that their political views are the reason for their unemployment, and white dudes out of Berkeley making record bank years after their prime, the place to be on the cutting edge is… women’s tennis!
It was 93 degrees in New York on Tuesday afternoon, with the heat index in triple digits as Alize Cornet faced Johanna Larsson in a first-round match at the U.S. Open, where the excessive heat meant players got a 10-minute indoor break between the second and third sets, as per WTA policy, recently also adopted in Flushing Meadows for the men between the third and fourth. When Cornet returned to the court, having changed out of a sweaty outfit, as is routine, she realized she had her shirt on backward, so she took it off and turned it around. For that, she was hit with a code violation by chair umpire Christian Rask, and though it did not include any scoreboard penalty, the 31st-seeded Cornet went on to lose her match, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Cornet said that the United States Tennis Association, which is responsible for the U.S. Open officiating, rather than the WTA, was quick to apologize to her, and the tournament did issue a clarification of its policy, including “regret” for the incident with Cornet.
While that all is plenty interesting, what might be even more so is how Cornet described the reaction among her fellow players: “All the players were supporting me for that, and were telling me that if I get fined, we would all be together and see the WTA, you know, and make a revolution and stuff. I was like, calm down, I’m going to get the information first and then we see, if we make a revolution or not.”
Cornet was not fined, so no revolution was necessary in this case, but it also raises an important question. If a potential fine for Cornet is enough to spur talk of revolution, how about the French Open banning Serena Williams’ catsuit? Especially considering that the outfit was designed to help the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen deal with blood clots after her difficult pregnancy.
“Bernard Giudicelli lives in another time,” Cornet said of the French Tennis Federation president. “What he said about Serena’s catsuit was 10,000 times worse than what happened to me on the court on Tuesday.”
As Billie Jean King was among the voices condemning the French federation, it’s worth noting that this year is the 50th anniversary of the start of the Open Era in tennis, which ended the split between amateurs and professionals and meant that when King won her third straight Wimbledon in 1968, she was able to collect prize money for the first time. Five years later, King founded the WTA, a governing body for women’s tennis established and run by players, but not a union. There has been talk of building toward one, but it always takes a push to make things happen. Cornet’s backward shirt may have shown that the time is right for the players to turn their sport inside out.