Written by Staff Writer by Danny Chau, CNN
Sloane Stephens famously complained about her odds when she beat Serena Williams to win the US Open last year — then proceeded to lose a grueling three-set semifinal against the world’s top-ranked player that all but ended her hopes of a tennis title in 2017.
In a stunning turnaround, Williams won the final in San Jose against Victoria Azarenka 7-5, 6-4 to defend her title on the most expensive tennis court in the world.
Sloane Stephens celebrates a US Open win, which was overshadowed by defeat to Serena Williams in the semi-finals. Credit: @NBCSports
While Williams and Stephens have since returned to tennis and are some of the most high-profile players in the world, they are far from the only ones to fall foul of the growing fury against the sport’s women that flares at every major.
CNN’s team of video journalists spoke to five women in the sport who have lost in the quarters or semifinals of a Grand Slam in recent years, and they relayed accounts of abuse and resentment.
Sloane Stephens said she received more than 2,000 messages of ‘abuse and anger’ after the US Open defeat. Credit: @Entertainment/Society
Nadia Petrova’s Wimbledon campaign ended in a fifth-round defeat in 2016, leaving her “so disappointed with myself.”
Roger Federer has experienced a higher profile fall from grace than many, with the tournament where he upset Novak Djokovic to win in 2007 vilified by a resurgent Rafael Nadal, and long-time rivals Roger Federer and Andy Murray battling through injury.
Novak Djokovic had dominated Novak Radwanska when their players shared the other half of the Flushing Meadows draw in New York. Credit: SUZANNE HURT/Getty Images
Backlash over dates
The 2017 Grand Slam was spread across three days, with a heavy schedule. Center Court matches took place on Friday and Saturday, with the competition eventually starting on Monday.
Women’s tennis can trace its roots back to Wimbledon in the 1890s. Credit: © AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Even so, a number of women players, including Ana Ivanovic, Elena Vesnina and Eugenie Bouchard, believe the rot started before the date was announced.
“On the drawing, it made sense to me,” American Christina McHale told CNN. “But I think it was disappointing for the girls that hadn’t put in the work to get into their places.
“I really feel like it wasn’t because the schedule was so crazy, it’s more that we’re girls and we get looked down on a little bit.”
No room for error
Vesnina told CNN she would prefer Wimbledon to be played as soon as possible.
“If you wait for one more year to start the tournament, you can see that the ladies’ ranking, especially the women’s singles, increases every year,” she said.
Vesnina’s campaign got off to a slow start in a third-round exit at Wimbledon in 2016. Credit: © Frank Augstein/AP/REX/Shutterstock
“The loss really showed us, the players, what it really means. I think it is because you have to earn the right to be there. So we have to do that first.”
Players’ union chairperson Amelie Mauresmo was less cynical. “There is no question that it’s an extra time and it might even affect the score,” she said.
“Because of the day, with the matches starting on the same day — a more experienced player, hopefully with a few more matches under their belt — maybe they will be faster.
“It all depends on how you play. It’s really up to the players to play the best they can and let the rest take care of itself.”