Tennis star Sloane Stephens stood her ground against Russian player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the China Open during an intense back and forth on Sunday in Beijing.
Things got heated in the first-round match when Pavlyuchenkova, who had won the first but was down 5-2 in the second, called a timeout to ask the trainer to check her shoulder. Stephens, who had just won a break point moments earlier and was about to serve for the set, accused her opponent of stopping the match just to break her momentum.
After Stephens eventually won that set she had words for the 27-year-old Russian at the net. “What’s disrespectful? You called the physio at 5-2. You’re not even injured,” said Stephens. “Don’t be ridiculous. You want to call your coach? No, you’re disrespectful. It’s fine … You can figure it out. Play the third set. You got want you wanted. You got the physio, so I don’t see what the problem is.”
At that point, the umpire Jenny Zhang seemingly tried to get Stephens to quiet down, but the 25-year-old American wasn’t having it.
“I don’t know why she’s complaining,” said Stephens. “I’m allowed to say whatever I want.”
Pavlyuchenkova then came over to Stephens and pretty much denied faking her injury, and the Florida native said she was addressing the umpire, which she’s allowed to do.
The intensity picked back up once the match resumed in the third set, when it seemed like Pavlyuchenkova tried to hit Stephens during a volley.
Stephens still won the point, and afterward the camera caught her reaction.
“F—ing b—h tried to hit me,” she clearly mouthed.
After Stephens’ eventual 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory, footage of the incidents hit the Internet, and so did the racist comments about Stephens being “a Black girl with an attitude problem.” In fact, many of the comments were similar to the ones left after Serena Williams confronted an umpire at the U.S. Open.
But other people came to Stephens’ defense and accused Pavlyuchenkova of being a dirty player. They also cheered the U.S. tennis star for defending herself.
“Sloane was there and plays the game for a living,” someone wrote. “I’m sure she knows intentional versus unintentional. Pav is a loser which is why she resorted to tactics. Her game sucks, so she cheats to win and even fails at cheating. Loser.”
“Ha, I love Sloane,” another person commented.