The Australian Open is a reminder that sport reflects society

MELBOURNENovak Djokovic returned to Australian Openwhich deserves attention, yes, mainly due to the fact that a year ago he was not at the tournament: He is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

Another player – Camila Giorgi, though ranked lower, less successful and less well known – has drawn scrutiny for reports published in her native Italy about whether she received a fake vaccine certificate from a doctor under investigation. which would allow her to travel.

“Incredible,” said Georgie’s father, Sergio, when the topic was the only one broached during her press conference in Melbourne Park on Tuesday. “No questions about tennis.”

Ah, welcome to the modern world. Tennis in particular and sports in general cannot but reflect society. And that means that athletes, spectators and the people who run leagues and events must fight and perhaps counter any prevailing global common ground at any given time.

Pandemic. War. mental health. #Me too. Gun violence. And so on.

“There are always those who say: ‘Politics and social issues, sports or entertainment should not be mixed.’ They must be separate. But that’s not reality either, because you’re dealing with people who are affected by these things. So whether you like it or not, you should be in it,” said WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon. “And it guides and forces you to make decisions that you might not normally want to make.”

Over a year ago, Simon announced Women’s Professional Tennis Tour to remove all its tournaments from China out of concern for the welfare of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former government official of sexual assault.

Simon wanted a full and transparent investigation into her allegations and an opportunity for the tour to talk to Peng – none of which happened – and so he still won’t commit to bringing WTA tournaments back to China.

In this regard, along with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, Simon said: “I hope we are moving towards a calmer 2023, when there will be a little less of them.”

When Arina Sabalenka, the No. 5 seed of Belarus at the first Grand Slam of the year, was asked on Tuesday about Tennis Australia’s new policy of not allowing spectators to bring flags representing her country or Russia – who invaded Ukraine almost a year ago – to matches, so as not to cause breakdowns, – her reaction was a little surprised.

“I really thought that… sport (has) nothing to do with politics,” Sobolenko said.

This is from someone who, like all players from Russia or Belarus, was banned from Wimbledon Last year, due to the war, the leaders of the tennis tours took the unprecedented step of forgoing ranking points at this prestigious event.

It is quite natural that everything that can be of collective interest becomes relevant in the field of sports. Particularly in an international sport like tennis, the Australian Open features singles players from over 40 countries.

“Sport and tennis can play a role in everything that happens in the world. Tennis has players from every continent, tournaments on every continent, and is shown all over the world on TV,” said Kasper Ruud, a Norwegian runner-up at the 2022 French Open and US Open and runner-up at the 2022 Australian Open. “Tennis players have a voice and I think they have used it well over the past year, especially in the context of some of the political debate and the war in Ukraine. Tennis has done well.”

One example: 21-year-old Iga Swiatek from Poland, ranked number one, wore a blue and yellow ribbon — the colors of the Ukrainian flag — on the baseball cap she wears during the game, in solidarity with the country. She also hosted an exhibition event to raise money for humanitarian causes, as well as various tournaments.

In another example, Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old Florida girl who was runner-up to Swiatek at last year’s French Open, used her platform to make public statements about gun violence and the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule Roe’s case. Brod and other topics.

And one more thing: Naomi Osaka, a 25-year-old girl who was born in Japan and moved to the United States with her family at the age of 3, wore masks with the names of black people who were victims of police violence during her participation in the 2020 US Open of the year. title. The following year, she helped spark a public and wide-ranging conversation about the importance of protecting her mental health by revealing that she had struggled with depression and anxiety for years.

“Whenever there is a global issue, be it good or bad, we definitely feel it in the tennis world because it will affect one of our colleagues, one of our peers. We have players from all over. We play everywhere,” said Felix Auger-Aliassime, a 22-year-old Canadian seeded No. 6 in Melbourne. “You have to have a sense of empathy for people everywhere, and the tennis ecosystem is a beautiful representation of the world on a small scale.”


AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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