US Open Notes: Sampras to Play ATP? Federer Faux Pas?

by Richard Vach | August 28th, 2007, 8:11 pm

SAMPRAS ANNOUNCEMENT — Pete Sampras will hold a teleconference Thursday in regard to playing the Hennessey Funds Alumni Legends Cup exhibition Sept. 7-9, with organizers throwing out a tantalizing “Amidst rumors of a potential return to professional tennis.” Sampras will face Sam Querrey, while Roscoe Tanner, Justin Gimelstob, Rick Leach, Paul Goldstein, and Steve Devries compete along with fellow Pac-10 alumni at the Tiburon Peninsula Club in Santa Rosa, Calif. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to the men’s tennis programs at Cal, Stanford, UCLA and USC, as well as Athletes for Life, a non-profit organization providing guidance and leadership programs to young athletes throughout California. With John Isner in the news as a collegiate player to make a successful transition to the pro tour, Steve Jackson, one of the Hennessy Funds Alumni Legends Cup three founders, said “This event is very special because it will serve as a showcase for the student-athlete and what these athletes can achieve both on and off the court.”

FEDERER FAUX PAS? — On the eve of the Althea Gibson tribute at the US Open, world No. 1 Roger Federer admitted to knowing nothing about Gibson’s accomplishments. Is it right to hold a Swiss citizen responsible for U.S. tennis history that occurred prior to the Open Era, prior to his birth? Tennis message boards in the U.S. have been aflame with criticism of Federer, shared by Serena Williams. “I can’t imagine he didn’t know who Althea Gibson was,” the younger Williams sister responded when told. “Which I think is the point. I think a lot of people don’t know who she is, and they always say Arthur Ashe, Arthur Ashe. People forget that Althea Gibson was actually years, decades before Arthur Ashe. I think it’s important to have nights like this so you can teach young people that don’t know who they are.” Well said by Serena, but give Federer a break. The recognition of Gibson’s accomplishments are long overdue (and news to many youngsters) in the U.S., but I’m sure U.S. players wouldn’t fare too well if grilled on Swiss tennis history at events in Gstaad or Basel…

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39 Comments for US Open Notes: Sampras to Play ATP? Federer Faux Pas?

Nell Says:

Having grown up learning history in public schools in America in the 1960s and 1970s, there is very little that I learned about other cultures. In fact, I was sent to the Principal’s office because I had the audacity to question why my 11th grade history book devoted only 1 paragraph to the Holocaust. As a U.S. citizen, who loves her country and appreciates the Constitutional rights we are so lucky to have, I am appalled at how ethnocentric our country is and, while we are not expected to know anything about any other culture or country, others are expected and criticized for not knowing certain details about ours. Roger Federer is an amazing athlete and sets a genuine and positive example of sportsmanship and humanitarianism means, which Serena Williams has never even come close to. That she would dare to criticize Roger is a glaring example of how out of line the culture in the U.S. is with the rest of the world community. I am appalled and embarrassed by her criticism.

Jun Says:

Serena only expressed her embarrassment. US is a free country and freedom of expression is given much importance. I’m one of the fans and an admirer of Federer and I salute him for being true to himself at a certain issue.

jane Says:

Yeah – on the one hand, I was surprised Fed didn’t know of Althea because of her tennis, but one the other hand, I thought he handled the question openly and honestly – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

AKA Maverick Says:

AKA Maverick
I fully agree with Nell. Unfortunately, we in USA think that we are best of all and hence expect people of all cultures, not only to know all about us but also to accept and follow us.
We are definitely not near the best in tennis. Williams sisters must learn to think prior to opening their loud, arrogant, media seeking mouths.
If one asked Williams sisters history of tennis of another country, their score would be a grand zero. Ignorant though they are, our biased media consistently forgives them for silly and stupid media seeking comments. I guess the media’s only concern is to sell their news paper or improve ratings.
I ask Williams sisters, what have you given back to this country. What have you done for tennis in USA. What have you done to teach people history of tennis. Answer. Nothing at all or,nothing significant.
I cannot even dare compare Williams sisters to Federer, that is how big Federer is.
Williams sisters, shut up and concentrate on playing tennis, you might still win few matches.

zeg Says:

Serena Williams is just being herself – a presumptuous and arrogant floozy. Roger Federer has more class in his left toe than she will ever hope for. Everyone is afraid to say anything negative about the Williamses – it is not PC, but they can get away with virtually any nonsense. I wonder how much this self-proclaimed “superstar” knows about Switzerland or Europe, in general – or if she can even find it on a map.

JCF Says:

How many of us actually knew of Althea? I’d never even heard of her until now.

Daniel Craig Says:

ditto JCF. Who the $%^& are Althea Gibson Arctic Monkeys?

Kara L. Says:

Federer’s admission that he didn’t know AG didn’t shock me nearly as much as Ana Ivanovic’s admission that she didn’t know a lick about the ’99 French Open women’s final with Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis, and that wasn’t even a decade ago! The former’s ignorance was expected, the latter’s was really shocking.

Hope Fed’s boo-boo doesn’t get blown out of proportion since it touches on really inflammatory and highly politicized subjects (i.e. race and gender). If he’s smart he’ll recognize the error of his ways and keep his mouth shut on the issue because otherwise it could turn into a real PR disaster.

Bette H Says:

I thought Roscoe Tanner was in jail for writing bad checks? He hung out at our club for a while and went back to Florida

Venky Tag Says:

Roger Federer is an iconic sportsman who blends achievements with modesty and a singular lack of exhibitionship and showbiz, which Serene is well known for.
We need to respect him for his single minded dedication and resolve. He plays great tennis and respects his opponents, which indicates a clean human being. We should salute such an allround individual instead of cribbing about some piece of history which he was not aware of.

RJ Says:

Really, this doesn’t have anything to with nationality, as Althea Gibson’s accomplishments and story went beyond America and were definitely international in scope. It’s not as if there were a lot of women of color from ANY country playing tennis when she did, and furthermore, she wasn’t simply an American but an international champion, who also won in Europe.

I agree with Serena that it’s sad that Fed didn’t know who she was — which isn’t the same thing as blaming him. If he was asked about Arthur Ashe, he would know he was because the tennis world has done a pretty good job of telling that story. Not so with Althea, which is the basic point.

It’s also not as if Federer was asked that question out of the blue. She was being honored in a huge, expensive ceremony at the very tournament he was playing. It’s kind of a shame that the US Open organizers themselves don’t make a point of telling the players more about the people they are honoring!

Shital Green Says:

I wish you understood what history means. Not everybody has to be as big as Tilden, Budge, Emerson, Perry, Laver, Borg Sampras, Maggy Court, Graff, Navratilova, Billie Jean, Evert, Seles, Connolly to be remembered for their contribution to tennis sports. I am not sure any of you know more than Williams about tennis history. Definitely, they have given more than any of you have to this country as far as global name recognition is concerned. Stop your racist slur against the Wlliams who have given more to American tennis than any female in the last decade, 4th in ope era, and certainly Gibson did her share, considering the time of history when racism was rampant. You are echoing the same racism here. This applies to Fed, too, consciously or unconsciously.
Yes, it is shame and outrageous that Fed publicly says he has never heard of Gibson to undermine a black female player’s contribution to American tennis.

Kara L. Says:

“Really, this doesn’t have anything to with nationality, as Althea Gibson’s accomplishments and story went beyond America and were definitely international in scope. It’s not as if there were a lot of women of color from ANY country playing tennis when she did”

I disagree with that assumption, I think that issues of history are always tied into identity, be they ethnic, nationality or gender based. Being a member of a minority group myself, I understand that not everybody in the world is aware of or shares the same historical values as I do but I’m perfectly ok with that.

I think once we start arguing that subjective values and histories are “international in scope”, we’re just going to open a whole can of worms when it comes to the politics of identity. Serena has the right to her valid opinions just as Roger can be forgiven for not knowing about an arcane piece of tennis history.

Kara L. Says:

Shital Green- “You are echoing the same racism here. This applies to Fed, too, consciously or unconsciously. Yes, it is shame and outrageous that Fed publicly says he has never heard of Gibson to undermine a black female player’s contribution to American tennis.”

Please think very carefully before you throw around accusations of racism, whether at tennis players or people who’ve posted here. It’s all too easy to point to Federer and say, “Oh, he’s racist!” when he didn’t even know a thing about the historical personage being discussed and he didn’t do it to undermine her reputation either.

Please try to keep things and the issue at hand in perspective.

Captain Says:

Shital Green- “You are echoing the same racism here. This applies to Fed, too, consciously or unconsciously. Yes, it is shame and outrageous that Fed publicly says he has never heard of Gibson to undermine a black female player’s contribution to American tennis.”

Have you consider that when Fed confess that he knew nothing about Althea, he actually meant he knew NOTHING about her? Including that she was an African American.

samps Says:

Shital Green, the number of fallacies and presumptions in your post might take too long to list. Federer’s lack of knowledge of Gibson’s achievements would rest assured, mirror most top tennis players (who aren’t american). I doubt if Serena would know about her if she didn’t read her about her in school (How’s this for me being a presumptuous moron; but then again I just copied you.) To read into his comment as being racist rather than an honest admission is ludicrous.

And criticizing the Williams’ sisters is more likely because they are spoiled self-centered brats and impossibly sore losers, not because they are black. They are brilliant athletes and good tennis players (Greatness you see requires rather more achievement), no one denies that. But for them to teach sense and perspective to someone like Federer is laughable.

zeg Says:

Way to go samps.
A racism card is always there to conveniently rescue a losing argument or to change the subject, and remarkably it only works one way – only “whites” can be bigots, of course.
If Federer said he did not know about Gibson, that means he DID NOT KNOW WHO SHE WAS – and that includes her skin color. Duh!
Funny how an innocent tennis discussion can be hijacked by the PC propaganda zealots.
And as far as Serena’s statement about Roger – remember that lying most of the time and in general is her preferred way of communication.

zeg Says:

Kara L said: “If he’s smart he’ll recognize the error of his ways and keep his mouth shut on the issue because otherwise it could turn into a real PR disaster.”

You’ve got to be joking! Since when being honest is “the error of his ways”??? Would you prefer that he’d lie and make up some story? Good thing he’s not getting advice from the likes of you to “keep his mouth shut”.

ChipnCharge Says:

I thought the ceremonies honoring Althea Gibson were wonderful. She endured so much to do what she loved. It is a shame she could not have been there to feel the appreciation.
However, I see some pretty amusing posts in this blog. The public figure expectations that some of you have for professional tennis players are so unrealistic that it is beyond silly. These are atheletes. They play tennis for fun and money. One poster even touts what the Williams sisters “did for our country”. Oh please! Spare me. They may have had an incidental impact the african american ratio in tennis, but lets get real. They did it for fun and profit. End of story. And hey, there is nothing wrong with that. Compare our beloved tennis to any other sport’s pros. We by far have the most respectable pros in sports. Compare Roger Federer not knowing a foreign countries history faux pa to Michael Vick torturing and murdering dogs. What sports athletes do you want your children idolizing?

grendel Says:

I agree with you on the whole, Zeg, but you are unfair to Kara.L – who posted three very measured comments about the absurdity of the racism charge. This is a very emotive subject, anything to do with gender and race is these days (one day it won’t be – that’s the way it goes)and a measured tone is the most sensible – and the most likely to engender a change of mind.

I would imagine Shital Green listened to Kara L., whilst probably you will simply have angered him. I do think Kara L. slipped up in using the phrase “error of his ways”, but it’s a benign mistake. Her real point is that the whole thing could become a P.R. disaster for Federer – who I assume has been bewildered by all this nonsense – and this is true, the world being what it is. A bit of pragmatism is what is in order here, and that’s why I value Kara L’s tone.

I also agree with Kara L. about the astonishing admission of Ana Ivanovic. Good grief! And Hingis is still bloody playing! What bizarre bubbles some of these tennis players live in – but there we go, perhaps that’s me being a snob.

grendel Says:

Incidentally, only some tennis players. When you listen to Safin, for example, it’s impressive how much he knows about recent tennis history, Hewitt seems pretty clued up, Henin obviously knows her stuff. I do worry about some of these younger ones, though…..

zeg Says:

I happen to be the one who was more than aware of Althea Gibson before it became fashionable, and I still can’t believe this brouhaha…
As for non-sensical comment of Kara L. – it’s fine if she made amends, but a phrase “error of his ways” brings up a vision of the Spanish Inquisition (which, of course, nobody expects…)
I don’t believe for a second taht Fed is in any PR-type danger – there’s never been a better representative of our sport.
Anyway, it would be nice to keep politics, race and other irrelevant stuff out of this board – there are plenty of other venues for that. Let’s talk tennis.

johnnhoj Says:

I’m sure Federer knows a substantial amount of MEN’S tennis history, particularly men’s singles competition. Certainly he’s heard of the name Althea Gibson, but never studied up on her achievements and career in women’s competition, and therefore doesn’t know anything about her. He’s probably going to learn more about her now, and about other women’s tennis players as well. He might know more about someone like Jackie Robinson (baseball). Not that there is any social or historic comparison, but I wonder how much Serena knows about a player like Frank Sedgman. The black and white divide has never been more emphasized than within the United States of America, understandably. A young Swiss guy who hasn’t delved into African-American history thinks black athletes achieving great things is perfectly normal.
Let him be.

RaaR Says:

In Europe, black athletes competing at the highest level in the 1950s wouldn’t be considered an achievement.

Although Althea Gibson showed great courage, I find it only natural that her actions had little or no impact in most european countries where racism existed but was not an issue in sports.

That said, I wonder what the Williams – or most americans – know about the historical figures of Switzerland, France, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Germany, Norway, Finland or many others.

RJ Says:

RaaR says “In Europe, black athletes competing at the highest level in the 50s wouldn’t be considered an achievement.”

Uh, really? That’s certainly not the case in tennis. Where’s your list of black European tennis stars from the 50s? In fact, Althea Gibson was the first black person of ANY nationality or gender to win Wimbledon. And it wasn’t until Yannick Noah in 1983 that a black person (a European one this time) won the French Open.

And if blacks have been playing tennis without barriers in Europe for decades, then why did The Guardian, a major British newspaper, recently bemoan the history of Wimbledon as “lily white?”

If you want to be classy and honest, like Federer, at least acknowledge that Althea was a pioneer in the sport, not just in America. As you said, I’m sure Serena doesn’t know all the pioneers in the sport either. There’s nothing wrong with that on either side — hey, they’re there to swing their rackets — but it doesn’t make sense to deny the contributions of those who made their mark in pretty impressive way no matter who you are, the color of your skin or where you come from.

RaaR Says:

I meant playing sports in general, not tennis in particular. In soccer, which is much more important in Europe than tennis, I remember seeing Eusébio (born in Mozambique) receiving the award for best european player twice in the 60s.

Long before him, all sorts of black athletes were the best in their sport. Tennis might be an exception but clearly race has been less of an issue here than in the US – of course, one may consider that to be a problem in itself, not being an issue doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there.

Tom Jones Says:

RE: Controversy over Althea Gibson’s Achievements:

I always have trouble understanding the racial segregation aspect of athletic achievements. Here is lady( black or white) whose acomplishments have been stellar in her time and era. She played against opposition of many colours( not only black and white)and beat them all at different tournaments.

Does it matter whether her achievements were black or white? Wasn’t she just plain great, measured under any standards?

Why place another colour barrier before this great woman who is worthy of mention anytime anywhere in the tennis world?


Paula Says:

i think it’s unfortunate that Federer didn’t know anything about Althea Gibson but I’m not surprised. I’m pretty sure you’d have gotten a similar response if you’d asked the same question of one of the other European players like Nadal or Gasquet for example, and same for the South American players. I appreciate that Federer was honest about it, instead of trying to BS his way through it, perhaps now he’s learned something new and interesting that he appreciates. I think it comes down mostly to the fact that Althea’s story just hasn’t been talked about and celebrated as much as say Arthur Ashe’s is within the sport & the media. Have you ever asked yourself why it is that we don’t have one of the courts at the open named for her?

grendel Says:

If I understand Kara L correctly, by “error”, she meant “ignorance”, i.e. lack of knowledge. It is obvious – simply from all her other posts, in which she defends Fed for his “ignorance”, on another thread as well – that she didn’t have some Stalinist idea of “error” in mind. Still, unfortunate choice of language.

AKA Maverick Says:

AKA Maverick
Dear bloggers
I am very disappointed that this has become a race and color issue. Serena Williams was defending Althea Gibson, whatever her reason’s maybe, but she should have not talked, as almost all of us bloggers agree, on Federer, like the way she did, who like many of us did not know who Althea Gibson was. It is as simple as that. Serena Williams could have been collegial with Federer, a fellow tennis player with untarnished, and immaculate tennis history.

Skorocel Says:

Well, how nice it is to see all those tributes, commemorations, etc. – isn’t it? One would think the Americans certainly do appreciate the ones who indeed DID something good to their home country. Well, and then you go to Althea Gibson’s wikipedia profile and read that she almost died in complete poverty… Joe Louis anyone?

Bonitto Says:

All who are taking up for Roger and beating down serena, should be a shame of themselves, who do you think Roger is God?

johnnhoj Says:

Hey Bonitto,
Federer is STILL greater than Sampras!

johnnhoj Says:

Just joking, don’t get upset.
I know it’s a touchy subject with you.
Want to know a secret? There is no single G.O.A.T.

grendel Says:

Bonitto, Serena didn’t like it one bit when Michael Stich commented that she was being a bit of a drama queen (at Wimby). “I’m much more stellar than he is” was her somewhat puzzling response. But leaving that aside, she resented what she saw as gratuitous criticism.

But she doesn’t mind going in for a bit of it herself, does she? In any case, it is a little hard to credit her genuine interest in anyone other than herself and family – that’s not particularly a criticism, it’s just the way she and her sister are, the way they have been brought up by that weird father of theirs (for his own nefarious purposes). Some people would call it child abuse, but I daresay that’s stretching it a bit.

AAK Maverick Says:

AKA Maverick
Just prior to Mr. John Isner’s match today, the television host tried to enter Mr. Jim Courier into discussing recent Ms Serena and Mr Federer issue. Obviously the host wanted to inflame the issue further. I was very pleased to see that Mr. Jim Courier answer in a sensible manner and did not even momentarily refer to Serena and Federer issue.
Just as Federer’s match today had started, Mr. John McEnroe and the television host were commenting on this year’s fashion, which Ms. Maria Sharapova and Mr. Roger Federer have taken up. During this conversation Mr. John McEnroe jokingly commented on Mr. Federer’s hair cut and said, it cost him $ 800/-. Immediately the television host took this up and wanted to make this another issue. But Mr. John McEnroe immediately defended Mr. Federer by saying and I quote, “It is his money, he can do whatever he wants with it”. It seems the media just wants to get something on Mr. Roger Federer. Something to put pressure on him during this very important slam. Sad.
The response of Mr Courier and Mr. McEnroe had, shows how big Mr. Federer is and how much these two respect him.
Good on McEnroe and Courier. Bad on television host.

To television host

Try to do your job and concentrate on tennis, this is why you are there. We pay money to listening to your comments on tennis, not to listen to you raise issues which only foment flame and tarnish this good game of tennis. It also shows up your character.

To bloggers.

Please let’s not speak of race, color, ethnicity or god. Soon someone will start talking on people’s religion. All the above are in poor taste and makes bloggers and readers equally feel bad. Just, let’s not allow ourselves to go to that low a level. We all are better than this.
It is tennis we are here to talk about so let’s up the blogs on tennis and leave behind for good the talk on race, color, ethnicity and god. Thank you. Enjoy rest of the tennis. Have a good day

Shital Green Says:

I really feel sorry for those Fed Aryans who have run out of Pelican Bay prison in CA with swastika tattoo on their arms.

samps Says:

Shital Green, ur hilarious! Thanks for being around, no seriously, or we’d Just be discussing tennis here. “Fed Aryans” …LOL! thats the funniest description of me (alongwith many others I see) I ve ever heard. Are you a sockpuppet of someone else on the site just having some fun and winding everyone up? Maybe you are the “bible thumping” Ellen Mooring who had an equally funny rant on another thread recently.

Regarding more serious issues :
you are spot on that a black athlete with all those achievements Is in fact a prominent symbol against racial discrimination and one that must be lauded esp in the times so close to the American civil rights movement. One cannot possibly deny that. Similar symbols exist everywhere and have played an important part in political history of nations.

RJ :
Your naivette on the history of European politics can hardly be overstated. Even Zidane is lauded for his part Algerian ancesectory as are many others. Even more so today when countries like France have serious race issues. The race symbolism is extremely essential and will continue to remain as long as racial discrimination exists.

Shital Green :
Inspite of my earlier comments, to claim that Federer didnt know Althea Gibson and was therefore racist is stupid and you my dear are a freak.

TPlayer Says:

This incident sounds familiar; kinda reminds me of Venus not knowing about Katrina. Naturally, that situation was worse for all kinds of reason.

Expect players to know about the playing history of their opponents, not historical figures in the sport, unless they’re history buffs. Two different skills altogether. We should do a pop quiz on history in general and see where Serena ends up.

Also, a bit unfair for Serena to expect Federer to know about Althea, a subject she’s researching for her film. She should have been asked the question, not him. As far as any male tennis player is concerned, the most they probably know about their female counterparts is the equal pay issue.

As for Federer’s ignorance of AG, he would miss the question as a contestant on Jeopardy. But since that’s not the competition he’s in at the moment, he should be given a break.

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