Code Violation for Discrimination



Few are noticing that young Chinese, inspired by tour events across Asia, are taking over the tennis world.

by Christopher Johnson ——

Many tennis fans and media outside of Asia don’t pay enough attention to tour events in Hong Kong, Wuhan, Shanghai, Tokyo and other cities across the region over the next few months. It’s as if the season ended at the US Open in New York and won’t start again until winter events in Paris, London and then the Australian summer.

There’s even less attention on a race of people — Chinese from China, Taiwan and America — dominating juniors recently.

Xiyu Wang of China beat Clara Burel of France 7-6(4), 6-2 to win the US Open juniors. She also won Wimbledon junior doubles with Xinyu Wang.

This summer, Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan won boys juniors on clay at the French Open and grass at Wimbledon.

Last year, Wu Yibing from Hangzhou won the US Open juniors singles, as well as doubles with Hsu Yu-hsiou of Taiwan.

Claire Liu, the US-born daughter of Chinese from Shanghai and Xian who immigrated to California, won Wimbledon juniors last year. This year she was the only player to take a set off eventual Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber. She’s a delightful personality who, if she wasn’t Chinese-American, might earn the type of media hype and sponsorship deals showered upon Naomi Osaka, a Japan-born American citizen with parents from Haiti and Japan.


The attention showered on players and events from some countries, not others, shows that tennis has a long way to go to overcome discrimination based on race, gender and age. 

Would you know more about these Chinese players if they were blond and blue-eyed like Denis Shapovalov, a Canadian born in Israel of Russian parents?

In 2013-14, the WTA and sponsors threw millions behind Genie Bouchard (a photogenic white girl trained in Montreal and Florida) instead of Sloane Stephens (an articulate, athletic African-American) and Simona Halep (a Romanian notable for her fighting spirit and breast reduction surgery). Bouchard is currently ranked 111, with $6 million in career prize earnings and much more from endorsements than French Open champion Halep, ranked number one, or Stephens, who won last year’s US Open.

Officials like to boast that tennis is more progressive and inclusive than other sports. The US Tennis Center in New York is named after Billie Jean King, a champion of gay rights who founded the WTA, which employs a large number of gay executives, managers and media. Her fellow gay activist and all-time great Martina Navratilova, in a New York Times opinion piece, claims that tennis is “democratic”.

It’s not. No male player on tour has come out openly as gay. White males are the owners of tournaments and CEOs of the ATP, International Tennis Federation and even the Women’s Tennis Association. Slams make billions while players outside the top 300 — and most writers and photographers — lose money on tour. Some events, staffed with unpaid “volunteers”, reap windfalls from high ticket prices while claiming “non-profit” status for tax purposes. The sportremains largely the domain of royalty and upper or middle class whites.

Serena Williams, who accused low-paid Portuguese male umpire Carlos Ramos of robbing her, is worth an estimated $160 million. China’s Xiaodi Yu, age 22 and ranked 150, has career earnings of $124,000, including $20,000 this year.

Yet Williams, perhaps the world’s highest earning female athlete ever, claims that she still feels like an “outsider” in a white male dominated sport where you won’t see an African-American woman umpiring a grand slam final.

The discrimination often depends on what is perceived as “racially correct”.  While many in Japan, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, are publicly cheering for Naomi Osaka, some Japanese and expats in Japan still question whether an American citizen who didn’t grow up in Japan, study in Japanese schools or pay taxes in Japan can really properly represent Japan.

In fact, Osaka might not be able to play for Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics unless she gives up American citizenship at age 22, as required by Japanese law. If she chooses Japanese citizenship, she would then have to pay higher taxes in Japan and apply for visas to “visit” her family and home in the US.

New York and London based media, meanwhile, have largely ignored the Haitian roots of Naomi Osaka. We don’t hear stories about how Naomi Francois, daughter of Haitian filmmaker Leonard Francois, is the future of Haitian tennis, or how she’s going to inspire a tennis boom among Caribbean islanders, who have excelled at boxing, baseball and sprinting.

Instead, we see hype about Naomi Osaka, born in Osaka, winning Japan’s first grand slam title. During Osaka’s stunning victory at the US Open, we saw more of her mother Tamaki from Hokkaido than her Haiti-born father who studied at New York University, taught English in Japan, moved his family to New York to live with his Haitian parents who spoke Creole at home, and trained his daughter in Florida to emulate — and beat — Serena Williams.

Few realize that Naomi is actually an American immigrant success story along with Maria Sharapova, Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and others groomed from early ages at Florida academies or US colleges.

Naomi’s early success doesn’t mean that Japanese tennis is “on the rise”. In fact, caucasians continue to dominate the sport.

In the ATP top 50, only five men are not caucasian: Kei Nishikori, ranked number 12, Hyeon Chung, 23, Nick Kyrgios, 27, Francis Tiafoe, 40 and Gael Monfils, 42.

Nishikori’s decade of success has not yet created other top 50 players from Japan. If tennis was indeed “on the rise” in Japan, then the Nishikori and Francois families would have kept their children there. Many parents in Asia still guide their kids toward soccer, basketball, baseball or volleyball than the mainly white world of tennis.

Remember Paradorn Srichaphan? His father from Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand trained him to be like Ivan Lendl. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, Paradorn beat Andre Agassi and a young Rafael Nadal. In 2004 he became the first man from Asia to break the ATP top ten. He reached the fourth round of Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open all within one year. He was going to inspire a boom of talent from Thailand and across Asia.

It didn’t happen. Talented boys in Thailand still lack the funding and coaching enjoyed by kids in Europe and America. The wealthiest overlords of tennis are pledging to invest billions into “World Cup” type of events in Europe or the US, not into programs to develop kids in Thailand, Wuhan or Mindanao.

There’s discrimination against white males in tennis too.

SCMP’s Mark Agnew and others have noted that men have to work much longer hours than women to earn equal prize money at most tournaments.


South African veteran Ray Moore had to step down as Indian Wells tournament director after young gay reporters falsely accused him of sexism for claiming that the WTA (then lacking a TV rights deal) was “riding the coat-tails” of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal — which is true.

The same online lynch mob falsely accused veteran white male announcer Doug Adler, an all-American tennis player at USC, of “racist” comments about Venus Williams’ tactics in Melbourne because they thought he said “gorilla” not “guerrilla”. Adler is now suing ESPN for firing and blacklisting him. The Williams sisters, who often cite discrimination against them, have not defended either Moore or Adler.