2013 in Review: The Feuds

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December 30, 2013 by Parveer Mann

Originally published on Back Row Sports.

All December long, the blog will take a look back at the highlights, lowlights and moments that defined the 2013 Tennis season.

Sometimes things aren’t always settled between the lines in Tennis. There are those lingering feelings and conflicts that either intentionally or unintentionally always seem to come out via the press or social media. Here are some of the best spats that kept everyone talking this year.

Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams:

After Sloane Stephens beat a sub-par Serena Williams this year in Melbourne to reach her first Grand Slam semi, it almost seemed too perfect. You had the reigning Queen of American tennis (Williams) ceding ground to her supposed heir apparent (Stephens) and setting the table for an engaging on-court rivalry.

However, for many the idea of a future rivalry truly took shape when Stephens had some rather harsh words for Serena in an ESPN Magazine story in May.

“She’s not said one word to me, not spoken to me, not said hi, not looked my way, not been in the same room with me since I played her in Australia. And that should tell everyone something, how she went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter.” [Her mother tries to interrupt.] “Like, seriously! People should know. They think she’s so friendly and she’s so this and she’s so that—no, that’s not reality! You don’t unfollow someone on Twitter, delete them off of BlackBerry Messenger. I mean, what for? Why?” – Sloane Stephens, ESPN Mag via tennis.com

Most blamed Sloane’s youth and inexperience for the uncanny public slipup but it did one thing for sure, it had everyone excited for their next encounter. When it came in September at the US Open, Serena let her racquet do the talking by pummeling Stephens 6-4, 6-1 in short order.

Feud Status: Simmered down. Sloane has made some comments to backtrack from her earlier statements but everyone knows Serena does not forget any alleged slights (i.e. Indian Wells). Hence, these two will remain a marquee match if they face in 2014.

John Isner and New York City:

After being treated as the outsider and receiving boos at his home slam during a second round triumph over Gael Monfils, Isner took a thinly veiled jab on Twitter at NYC and its tennis fans.

The tweet reads as a cheap takedown of a crowd who ultimately pays good money to watch good tennis and not to strictly be partisan. Also, it’s important to acknowledge that Monfils is not just any non-American, he is easily one of the five or 10 players on tour who are must-see. In the end, this just seems like a frustrated Isner trying to let off some steam or a man ‘overly obsessed’ with his hometown?

Feud Status: Wait and See. Isner returns to New York next August and we will see if anyone in Queen’s greets him with that famous New York hospitality.

Novak Djokovic’s dad vs. Nadal and Federer:

It’s never good when a top player has to apologize for someone in their camp but that is exactly what Novak Djokovic had to do this summer. It all stemmed from an article in Kurir, where Srdjan Djokovic criticized both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for their untoward behaviour towards his son. He felt both players felt threatened by the rise of Novak and their attitudes had become less than friendly.

“Federer is perhaps still the best tennis player in history, but as a man he’s the opposite,” Srdjan told the newspaper Kurir recently. “He attacked Novak at the Davis Cup in Geneva (in 2006), he realized that he was his successor and was trying to disparage him in every way. Novak’s success is an amazing thing and something that Federer cannot understand.”

Srdjan said also said that his son’s relationship with Rafael Nadal has changed for the worse.

“[Nadal] was his best friend while he was winning. When things changed, they were no longer friends,” Srdjan said. “This is not sport.” – tennis.com

Novak was quick to distance himself from the comments when asked in Montreal and believed that it was unfortunate that someone he loved had spoken that way. Both Nadal and Federer had little to say on the issue and seemed to not even acknowledge the issue.

Feud Status: In the background for now. This seems like a perfect case that if the issue comes up again that it will involve the families and coaches of the players more so the players themselves.

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