Leading Tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King defended a female Chinese tennis star this week, after online calls for her to be expelled from Wimbledon because of “flagrant” violations of the spirit of the game.
Following a grueling contest on Court 12 at the French Open on May 4, Chun Hsin Feng — a wild card player from China who is ranked 48 in the world — allegedly “lunged” at Aleksandra Krunic’s ball toss.
The players had come in from the wrong side of the court in an effort to remain in the front row of the grandstand area. The intentional tour of the ball toss was part of a lighthearted ritual that was not penalized in the previous match.
Eyes of the world were watching the two exchange gestures, seemingly ignoring the high stakes of the matchup, before a seemingly passionate Chun, 22, let loose an elbow of fury.
Jyrki Bellainin, former president of WTA and current WTA Global Chair, said she wished to “dignify” the China Daily with her response.
“I hope that all of our players who participate in the Grand Slams or our qualifying events practice strong sportsmanship,” Bellainin said. “In this particular case, I think that the video is insufficient. They were moving towards the lines and his arm was up, which is kind of ridiculous. The ball is only 50 meters from where he is standing, he hit it with the elbow and she hit it with the head.”
Greta Svitolina was also advised by WTA officials to watch out after she appeared to throw a ball high into the stands.
“I don’t know what her reason was,” Bellainin said. “That’s a matter of her mind. She’s almost 50 meters from the lines. Who knows. But we do not know, and I hope that we find out a little bit more, so that I can see what the problem is, you know? This is unacceptable. It’s important that you treat everyone like equal. I don’t know what the outcome will be, but the ball is there.”
“It’s just, you’re basically in an area where you’re a big star, and all of a sudden you’re not able to interact, because somebody else made a really big push to you,” she added. “That’s completely against what the tournament should be for.”