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'It's an absolute jungle'
Mom of tennis phenom charges women's tour with racism
Posted: Tuesday June 29, 1999 04:30 PM
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Alexandra Stevenson, an American making a splashy Wimbledon debut, is embroiled in controversies over her threat to sue for prize money and her mother's charges of racism and sexual advances by other women players.
Stevenson, an 18-year-old from San Diego, Calif., entered Wimbledon as an amateur, then announced she was turning pro. When told by the WTA that she could not collect prize money because she hadn't advised the tour of her change of status before play started last Monday, she threatened legal action.
By reaching the fourth round, Stevenson would have won 26,280 pounds ($42,340). If she beats Lisa Raymond on Monday, she would be guaranteed at least 50,280 pounds ($79,442) as a pro.
Samantha Stevenson said her daughter had followed the guidelines on turning professional.
"The [Wimbledon competitors'] guide says you only have to notify the prize money office if you wish to protect your amateur status," she said. "We went in and said we didn't want to do that."
"They [the prize money office] said 'if you want to be a proessional, you just play on,' so we played on. Now we'll have to get an attorney. There's going to be a dogfight. The WTA can be very dictatorial, but we're right and they're wrong."
Stevenson's mother, Samantha, who is white, stirred further controversy by saying her mixed-race daughter was the victim of racial slurs by another player during a Wimbledon qualifier at Roehampton.
Samantha Stevenson, a sports correspondent for the New York Times who has covered tennis for many years, said the women's tour was a nightmare because the players "haven't gotten it into their heads that they are in a professional sport."
"They act like a bunch of girls in high school," she said. "It was awful down at Roehampton. ... The only thing that kept us sane was the American men players. They were friendly and supportive of Alexandra and appreciated her talent.
"With one or two exceptions, the women seem incapable of adopting the same kind of attitude."
She said the treatment of Venus and Serena Williams when they first joined the tour was "definite racism."
"Is it big? No. Is it subtle? Yes. You can't explain racism, you have to he there to understand it," she said.
Samantha Stevenson also said she never leaves Alexandra by herself in the locker room because she wants to protect her from rampant jealousy and lesbian innuendo.
"It's an absolute jungle," she was quoted as saying. "A big, bad place. It just isn't a normal place for a young girl. As her mother, I want to make sure she's OK. But the biggest threats to girls of her age are the other girls on the tour."
"When she goes into the locker room, she looks for me," she added. "She's a real teen-ager and I'm not going to let anything happen to her. If girls like her don't have a support team, they can be led down the wrong path."
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