*Tennis star Sloane Stephens defended her heated exchange with Russian opponent Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at the China Open on Sunday.
Things went a bit left in the first-round match when Stephens accused Pavlyuchenkova of trying to break her momentum when she called a timeout just as Sloane was about to serve for the set. Stephens, who had just won a breakpoint moments earlier, called out her opponent for “faking” a shoulder injury that required her trainer’s attention.
Pavlyuchenkova called for a timeout and asked the physio to treat her right shoulder, and such a move is typically frowned upon, as it can be seen as trying to ice the other player.
Down two breaks, with the set on the opponent’s racket— the timing of that request was odd but the strategy appeared to work, Deadspin noted, as Stephens saw her serve broken when play resumed.
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Here’s the beef with Sloane and Pavs pic.twitter.com/lQnImgyGE1
— Jada (@JaMuzik) September 30, 2018
While speaking with chair umpire Jenny Zhang, Stephens says sarcastically: “That’s the sport we play. Right? Sportsmanship. That’s really important.”
Pavlyuchenkova appeared to hear the comment and confronted Sloane, apparently calling her “disrespectful.”
“I’m disrespectful? What’s disrespectful? You called the physio at 5-2. You’re not even injured,” Stephens said.
“How do you know I’m not injured?” Pavlyuchenkova answered.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t be ridiculous…No, you’re disrespectful…It’s fine…Play the third set. It’s fine,” Stephens replied. “You got what you wanted. You got the physio. So I don’t see what the problem is.”
Zhang was forced to leave her chair and stand between the two players.
Stephens continued to address Zhang, saying: “She called the physio. She got the physio. She got what she wanted. It’s fine. I’m allowed to say whatever I want. I spoke to you. I didn’t address her at all.”
Things heat up further in the next game, she suspected her opponent was trying to injure her with a shot, saying, “That f—ing b—- tried to hit me!”
Stephens went on to win the match in three sets, 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-4, and it ended with a handshake and the champ heard saying, “All good?” to her opponent.