American Sloane Stephens accused her opponent of trying to hit her with an overhead shot during a contentious first-round match at the China Open on Sunday.
In the third set, it appeared that Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova tried hitting Stevens with an overhead smash near the net. However, Stephens returned the hit and won the point. While returning to the baseline, it appeared that Stephens suspected Pavlyuchenkova’s intent, muttering: “That f–king bitch tried to hit me.”
Stephens had reason to think that way since the overhead appeared to be the culmination of heated verbal exchanges.
The match in Beijing between the No. 9-seeded Stephens and Pavlyuchenkova lasted nearly three hours. When Stephens led 5-2 in the second set, Pavlyuchenkova called to see a trainer after Stephens had won a break point. Calling questionable timeouts in tennis isn’t new, but doing so before the opponent was set to serve for the set is a bit unusual.
The 27-year-old clawed back to 5-4 in the second set before the changeover. That’s when Stephens had some words for umpire Jenny Zhang.
“That’s the sport we play. Right? Sportsmanship. That’s really important,” Stephens chimed to the umpire.
Stephens won the second set, 6-4, but stared down Pavlyuchenkova as she approached her bench, which ignited a war of words between the two, enough fireworks to get Zhang to come down to split the pair up.
“I’m disrespectful? What’s disrespectful? You called the physio at 5-2. You’re not even injured,” Stephens said to Pavlyuchenkova.
“How do you know I’m not injured?” Pavlyuchenkova clapped back.
Stephens won the match in three sets, 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-4. She will face Zheng Saisai on Tuesday.
Source: Kyle Schnitzer