Tennis Stars Make History, Yet They’re Mocked By Ageist Media

Zohaib Ahmed
It's unfortunate when true legends are not lauded for their accomplishments, and are ridiculed in the name of humor instead.

Tennis Stars

If you follow sports, you must know that an athlete's career span is very limited. A decade and a half is the max most athletes get before time and age catch up with them. This ticking clock on their careers also explains the reason for the lavish amounts of money thrown around by sports professionals. However, that is not the point of this piece.

The point here is that an athlete's life is shorter than other professionals, and this is even more evident in WTA tennis, where we rarely see women in their 30s still relevant or even active. That is why the norm shattering duo of Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm – who clashed in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday is so unique.

The more illustrious of the two is obviously Williams, who is going strong even at the age of 34 and ended her two-year-long title drought earlier this year. This is after several injury-plagued years and a bout with the autoimmune disease Sjögren's syndrome.

While she herself is a medical marvel, even more amazing is her Japanese opponent who is just a month shy of her 44th birthday and is still a fierce competitor.

The two faced off at Flushing Meadows and even at their age didn't fail to entertain. After a three-set encounter and an unscripted bout with an intruding bee, Williams prevailed.

It was the oldest match-up on the WTA circuit in the Open Era, so the occasion should've been about celebrating the longevity of these great athletes. But instead, the commentators as well as writers online took it for an opportunity to vent their ageist views under the veil of humor.

Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim, for instance, deemed it appropriate to mention this in his writing:

"Date-Krumm is so old, if she mentions having played mixed doubles with Noah, she's not talking about Yannick."

Another gibe that targeted both the stars was: "Apart from the prize money, the winner also got a Social Security payout." 

Before the game, Date-Krumm, in her naivety, ended up trolling herself and provided others the chance to follow suit.

"It's my first time to play in this stadium, because when I played here in my past career, it's not built yet," Kimiko Date Krumm said Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Meanwhile, Williams had to deflect questions about her retirement after her win 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. Again, it's extremely rude of sports journalists to harass a legend with questions about her retirement plans even though she is playing so well and has never talked about it herself.

Tennis is one of the most physically demanding sports, and in times when female tennis players start thinking about leaving the game even before hitting their peak, stars like Date-Krumm and Williams are rarities. They deserve more respect. Far more than what they got on Monday night.