We are coming off one of the most competitive U.S. Open tournaments in recent memory. Coco Gauff and Ben Shelton respectively shined in their matches. Gauff earned her first major title after defeating a very game Aryna Sabalenka. Shelton defeated Frances Tiafoe in dominant fashion to move on to the Open semi-finals. Shelton then lost to the legendary Novak Djokovic. There was much fanfare regarding not only the high quality of play in this year’s open but also seeing these new brown faces thrive on that stage. We are seeing the seeds sown by Arthur Ashe, as well as Venus and Serena Williams begin to truly blossom in real-time. Gauff is the youngest woman to win the U.S. Open since Serena Williams did in 1999. We marvel at her greatness.
Shelton’s win over Tiafoe for many seemed like an upset. His win was met with mixed reactions as some didn’t take kindly to his taunting during and after the match. Some folks expressed their displeasure and felt that his conduct wasn’t for lack of a better term, classy.
In the same vein of outspokenness, during Gauff’s latest run, she had to advocate with the match’s chair umpire. What you’ll see below is very reminiscent of how vocal Serena Williams would be at times during her career as well. I also want to highlight that there was a time when someone in Gauff’s position would not have been cheered for advocating for themselves. I’m elated that she hasn’t hesitated to assert herself.
It’s no secret among Black people that we are judged by the broader society by a different standard. So when you delve into sports that hold onto customs of yesteryear, you can expect some contention when philosophies clash. All too often we are told to remain humble and meek. When John McEnroe broke rackets in frustration, it was always classified ultimately as competitive spirit. Somehow, motioning to dial up a phone and then hanging up isn’t seen as a form of celebration.
I’m lost as to what exactly tennis fans at large want. I don’t understand why one can’t celebrate how they choose, as well as do their proverbial wave at the end of a match. It’s time that we embrace change. This idea that celebrations like that of Shelton’s should only be relegated to the NBA and NFL is asinine. This new era of athletes, specifically in tennis is some of the most dynamic the sport has ever seen. These are supreme athletes who are playing at the highest levels. They are earning their opportunities. So when they succeed, they should have the freedom to celebrate as they see fit outside of any vulgarity.
I could be wrong, but when Serena crip walked after Wimbledon, I don’t remember the outrage. Is this really a case of white fans of tennis just not wanting to see strength in triumph exhibited by Black people? I’ll tell you what, this all sure wreaks of it.
Regardless, as you can see above, not much seems like it’ll change on the players’ side. Like Ric Flair used to say, “Whether you like it or not, learn to love it.” I promise if tennis fans embrace the variety of ways their players can respectfully comport themselves, the better off it’ll be for the game at large.