A reporter called tennis superstar Serena Williams “baby,” and asked whether she was “intimidated” by opponent Maria Sharapova’s “supermodel good looks” during an interview Saturday.
And she handled it like a champ (that she is).
In the course of the interview, Inside Tennis’s Bill Simons said to the tennis star, “I know you want to get back to (Williams’ daughter) Olympia, work with me here please,” in what could be construed as an attempt to interact more personally with Williams.
Williams replied, smiling, “Work with me.”
“We’re in this together, baby,” Simons then said to Williams.
“No, we’re not — you’re not going home to a screaming baby,” Williams replied.
Simons then posed a loaded question he had “been waiting about 14 years to ask” Williams, focused on Donald Trump’s evaluation of Maria Sharapova’s appearance.
“I have been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question,” Simons said. “After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview Donald Trump on his LA golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulders were incredibly alluring and then he came up with his incredible 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 you thoughts about that occurrence?”
Refusing to take the bait, Williams responded: “I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it.”
Strong reactions immediately hit the internet in response. “Suggesting that a top female athlete would be intimidated by another athlete’s looks is insane and sexist, and repeating someone else’s insane and sexist suggestion to the subject of it isn’t much better than making that suggestion yourself,” blogger Andrew Bucholtz wrote of the exchange on the sports blog Awful Announcing.
Plenty of others shared their thoughts on social media.
Simons posted the following on Twitter Sunday night: “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.”
Williams has removed herself from this year’s French Open due to a pectoral injury, she announced at a press conference Monday morning, thus missing her impending match with Sharapova. It doesn't seem like her opponent's "alluring shoulders" intimidated the star athlete who has won the French tennis tournament on three separate occasions.