Today at the French Open, No. 7 seed Sloane Stephens lost her quarterfinal match. She went to press after, only to field this question, as noted by tennis writer Ben Rothenberg:
Q: Is there a sense that this tournament and the draw, it was so open? I mean, you are such a world-class player, is it harder in a way to, when you look at the eight that were there this morning, does that make it harder in a way to sort of — or a bit more cross to be going home?
SLOANE STEPHENS: No. When you look at the draw, the eight people that are still in the tournament, there is a reason why they’re still in the tournament.
There’s always opportunities in every single tournament to go further. Am I upset that I wasn’t able to do that? Of course. But I wouldn’t downplay any of the other eight people, because they’re all great players.
That question, I think, is not great because that kind of puts the other players down, which is, in this situation, in the last eight of a Grand Slam, is nowhere near where they should be put.
Should Sloane be upset? Let’s take a look at the hypothetical weak “eight that were there this morning.” It appears that there were six seeded players in there. Aside from Slam champion Stephens herself, these seeds include: last year’s French Open champion Simona Halep, last year’s French Open semifinalist Madison Keys, this year’s Australian Open quarterfinalist Ashleigh Barty, and Johanna Konta, whose 15-3 clay record has made one of the hottest players on the surface this season. It’s difficult to see how any of these names would register as a real shock in the final eight.
So maybe the reporter’s question could be parsed as an oddly specific burn of world No. 38 Markéta Vondrousova, the 19-year-old who beat defending champ Halep last month on clay. Or maybe the reporter is low on world No. 51 Amanda Anisimova, the prodigy who broke into the Australian Open fourth round earlier this year and looks like a superstar-in-waiting. Or maybe, to swipe Occam’s razor, the reporter asked a lazy question because they don’t give a shit about the sport they’re nominally covering.
For players, even retirement isn’t necessarily an escape from dumb questions. A softball Q&A to celebrate a recent award for former player Gabriela Sabatini should have passed without incident, right?
Q: Talking about this, which relationship do you have to your body? Because I remember when you played, you put maybe, to me, too many muscles on you. And now you look perfect.
GABRIELA SABATINI: Thank you (smiling).
Access either rots the brain or is wasted on the stupid—or both.
H/t Ben Rothenberg