"Twirl-Gate" no big deal for Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada waves to the crowd after a television interview on the court after defeating Caroline Garcia of France Friday. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)
Eugenie Bouchard of Canada waves to the crowd after a television interview on the court after defeating Caroline Garcia of France Friday. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

MELBOURNE, Australia - For those who were appalled at the on-court postmatch interview after Canadian Genie Bouchard's match – you know, the one that produced web hits and page views all all over cyberspace and outraged those who considered it the height of sexism? – the woman herself said there's not much to see there and let's all move on, shall we?

Or at the very least, the 20-year-old Canadian said it wasn't a big deal, which means she'd much prefer to turn the page on it.

"You know, I stay out of this stuff, but I heard a little bit. My friends are texting me saying I dance and twirl well and stuff, as jokes. Yeah, I think it was just kind of funny. You know, I'm fine with being asked to twirl if they ask the guys to flex their muscles and stuff," Bouchard said.

She smiled as she said that during her press conference But it was hardly the full-blown, megawatt Genie Bouchard smile that has graced magazine covers and selfies for the last year. It was a tight-lipped smile, which could either mean that it did bother her and she didn't want to make a stink about it, or it wasn't about the tennis so she was aggravated she even had to deal with it at all.

Internet outrage was predictable, as if a 10-second, ill-advised but sadly not atypical on-court interview moment somehow complely erased the world-class tennis performance she had just put up against second-round opponent Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.

And, after Friday's victory over Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia put her into the round of 16, it was discussed again.

Legendary tennis figure than Billie Jean King, a tennis pioneer in the late 1960s who was instrumental in getting people to take the women's game seriously, not surprisingly had an opinion.

"Personally I'm not offended. No, I think it was an in-the-moment thing and it was funny. But, yeah, I mean, it's just funny how it's taken a life of its own," Bouchard said. "I'm just going to try to focus on my tennis."

The interview, conducted by Ian Cohen, wasn't actually televised originally. Australian Open network Channel 7 diverted any and all complaints to Tennis Australia in a statement to the Daily Mail:

"The interview, which didn’t air on Channel 7 or 7TWO, was in this instance conducted by a commentator who works for the host broadcaster, Tennis Australia. The host broadcaster provides match coverage and some commentary and interviews, which is seen on our live digital streaming service."

The interviewer was holding a "Channel 7" microphone, of course. But never mind that.

There's nowhere to hide on the Internet, so it took a nanosecond for the video clip to make the rounds. As happens so often in these cases, events take on a life of their own.

Channel 7 is hardly an innocent party. A year ago, it was former player and current commentator Sam Smith – who really should know better and have seen the red flags coming a mile away – who asked a "fan question" on court to Bouchard that turned into ... l'affaire Bieber.

Serena Williams, who was the original "twirler" and whose twirl the previous day indirectly led to the Bouchard twirl request, wasn't particularly pleased.

But she, like Bouchard (and they share the same agent/advisor, Jill Smoller) did not want to add fuel to this fire when she answered the question Thursday night.

"Well, a commentator asked me to twirl. I wouldn't ask Rafa or Roger to twirl. Whether it's sexist or not, I don't know. I don't know. I can't answer that," Williams said. "I didn't really want to twirl because I was just like, you know, I don't need all the extra attention. But, yeah, it was fine. I don't think and look that deep into it. Life is far too short to focus on that.

"We have so many other problems we want to deal with that we should focus on. Whether I twirl or not, it's not the end of the world. It's about being positive and just moving forward," she added.

Amen to that. These women are strong, successful, confident millionaires. They just treat this stuff as an unfortunate part of a lucrative gig and get on with it. They let their racquets do the talking.

They are hardly helpless victims even if there's no doubt they wouldn't ask the men the same question.

For one thing, the men all wear shorts, so twirling wouldn't have the desired billowy effect on their sponsored attire.

But whatever the male equivalent might be of that type of request, it is not asked my the primarily male contingent that get hired for these jobs. All of which won't quell the cyber-outrage, because it doesn't take much for people to get outraged these days.

Bouchard was on Rod Laver Arena for her Friday match. And that meant the post-match interview was with former player Todd Woodbridge.

No doubt Woodbridge (who also has a big job with Tennis Australia, in that way tennis people have of having a finger in several pies) was advised to stay away from anything that might be remotely miscontrued – but that's not his interviewing style anyway. He's pretty straightforward.

That meant we were back to the same old, same old, timeworn, yawn-inducing cliché questions and rote answers. Fans got to hear about how much Bouchard likes Australia, and how she's going to take it match by match and have fun.

This, apparently, is better. At the very least, it's safer; there's no chance it will go viral.

The solution to all this is surprisingly simple: just do away with the whole genre altogether. Then there's no incentive to try to come up with something different, something that will have the crowd laughing or otherwise reacting.

And while you're at it, get rid of those pre-match interviews as well.

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