On the heels of Serena Williams’ victory against Julia Grges at the French Open on Saturday, her best performance since returning from maternity leave, Inside Tennis reporter Bill Simons asked Williams a sexist question about President Donald Trump’s alleged comments on Maria Sharapova’s shoulders and “supermodel good looks.”
“I have been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question,” Simons began.
“After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his (Los Angeles) golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with this extraordinary analysis: That you were intimidated by her supermodel good looks.
“My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about the occurrence”
Williams answered: “I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimidated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it.”
Simon’s question to Williams appeared to deflect her win against Grges and instead make it about how she felt about Sharapova’s appearance and intimidation.
Williams was scheduled to move forward at the French Open on Monday to face Sharapova in the fourth round of the tournament.
However, Williams withdrew from the tournament Monday morning as she has suffered a pectoral injury that prevented her from being able to serve, according to the Associated Press.
Williams won her last 18 matches against Sharapova, a two-time French Open champion. The New York Times describes Sharapova, as “the only women’s player in this era who has rivaled Williams’ star power and earning power, yet has never rivaled her as a champion.”
In September, Sharapova released a memoir on her one-sided rivalry against Williams, which Sharapova admits began in her own mind. The book takes a stereotypical turn in regard to body image.
Sharapova includes her perception of Williams’ physique and being intimidated when they had their first match in 2004 in Miami.
“First of all, her physical presence is much stronger and bigger than you realize watching TV,” Sharapova writes.
“She has thick arms and thick legs and is so intimidating and strong. And tall, really tall. I looked across the net, and, no way to get around it, she was just there! More there than other players, if that makes sense. It’s the whole thing her presence, her confidence, her personality.”
Yolanda L. Jackson, who served as a senior director at the Women’s Sports Foundation for more than 20 years, told DiversityInc that “Serena especially has been targeted because she’s the greatest tennis player of all time.
“That very fact makes her prime for attacks. The more she achieves, the more people will try to find something wrong with her.”
Simons issued an apology on Twitter:
I apologize if my awkward ques seemed 2 empower Trump or attack Serena/I SO admire her/I’ve spent lifetime fighting racism/sexism/homophobia.Started campaign 2 name US Open Stad 4 Ashe/Lobbied long 2 get Serena 2 return to I. Wells/Called out police violence vs Blake/I’m so sorry
INSIDE TENNIS (@BillSimons1) June 4, 2018