The Wrong “Impression” of Caroline Wozniacki and Tennis

By David Kane

As we edge closer to December 21st and the world hurtles closer to its Mayan-predicted end, more and more signs of the apocalypse appear to be popping up.

For one, the American media largely ignores tennis, save for the weeks during the US Open. Yet, at the height of the off-season, the sport found itself as a topic of conversation on the popular talk show, The View. The ladies were discussing last weekend’s exhibition in Brazil that featured, among others, Caroline Wozniacki and Serena Williams. Free from the usual tournament tension, players use exhibitions as their opportunity to entertain the crowd without fearing a win or a loss.

Caroline Wozniacki (L) impersonates Serena Williams

The panel, Sherri Shepherd and Whoopi Goldberg in particular, took issue with one of those attempts at entertainment. As the event unfolded, Wozniacki (referred to as “Carol” by Ms. Goldberg) impersonated Williams, and stuffed her front and back to simulate the American’s famous assets. The question, to the shock of tennis fans, was whether the move by Wozniacki was racist.

When panelist Joy Behar quipped that white women are made fun of for their bodies, Ms. Shepherd retorted, “I’m speaking as a black woman…to see Serena Williams reduced to this, I don’t like it.” Ms. Goldberg, typically looked to as the panel’s voice of reason, went further and likened the image of the Dane’s stuffed bra and underwear as one “generally seen with a bone in their nose and a short little skirt.” She went on to say, “I don’t ever remember them making fun of the white tennis players.”

The reaction on Twitter was swift:

But I must point to another sign of our impending doom: Today, the outspokenly conservative panelist, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, talked some sense. She brought up the very important point that players impersonate each other all the time, citing Novak Djokovic as a player quick to comically don the mask of one of his peers. Ms. Hasselbeck’s argument was not perfect if only that she claimed that the players of the ATP impersonate each other. Quite the opposite; in fact, some of the most remembered on-court clowns, Djokovic along with Andy Roddick and Dmitry Tursunov, get their biggest laughs from impersonating the ladies. Which famous, multiple-Slam winning player do they impersonate the most?

Maria Sharapova.

Djokovic won over an Arthur Ashe Stadium night crowd in 2007 with his ability to encapsulate the Russian’s deliberate pre-serve routine, down to the tucking of hair behind the ear.

One may argue that Djokovic didn’t physically alter himself in the way that Wozniacki did. However, 10 months earlier, it was Sharapova’s compatriot Tursunov who stuffed two strategically placed tennis balls down his shirt while impersonating her.

(The “transformation” can be seen at :22).

When the reader takes this into consideration, it becomes clear that impersonations in tennis are anything but a black/white issue. Williams and Sharapova are the sport’s two most recognizable stars; when a player impersonates them, an exhibition crowd can easily point them out.

Caroline Wozniacki is not a racist for knowing how to entertain a crowd. She did not step on the court in blackface, and to deem large breasts and buttocks as a signifier of black women alone does not do justice to the women of all colors who are either full figured or aspire to be shaped like Serena Williams.

An impersonation can be racist, but not all people who impersonate people of other races are racists. If that were true, then where was The View when Caucasian Fred Armisen repeatedly impersonated President Barack Obama or former New York Governor David Patterson on Saturday Night Live?

But this is more than simply an issue about who has the right to impersonate whom; what matters is the message that The View’s discussion sends to non-tennis fans. Often looked on as an elitist, country club sport, professional tennis is truly the opposite, with the rankings alone a testament to the melting pot that is the tennis world. Players like Williams, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer have done immeasurable outreach with underprivileged youth in the United States and Africa, opening schools and driving home the global nature of the sport that made them famous.

Baseless accusations like this senselessly sully the sport’s reputation, and most ironically, give people who know nothing about tennis the wrong “impression.”

46 Responses to The Wrong “Impression” of Caroline Wozniacki and Tennis

  • Manixdk says:

    Thanks for being a voice of reason. This happened in multi-racial Brazil with Caro’s friend Serena in the stands. There was not a peep from the crowd apart from multi-racial laughter. There was nothing in the Brazilian papers condemning Caro. This seems to be almost a purely American phenomenon.

  • Eric says:

    Well done. Every tennis fan needs to spread the word on this mid-reported story. I’m also hoping Serena sees it fit to come to the aid of her dear friend in the upcoming days…

  • Deco says:

    Racist? Oh please… Only ignorant people would think this way… People who don’t know anything about the sport or the friendship between Serena and Caro…

  • Marcelo says:

    I have only one thing to say about all that: ignorant people!
    Caro racist? hahahaha… another joke, please.
    There is a video of Roddick (a ‘white’ north-american guy) impersonating Serena, as same as Wozniacki did, and people are laughing a lot. Why don’t they call him as racist? Fucking bastards, have nothing better to say.

  • Marcelo says:

    Just an observation: congratulations to the author of the text and the sense of responsibility with your words.

  • ilana says:

    You’re absolutely right. It’s not like Black women’s bodies have historically been (and presently are) denigrated or reduced to ugly caricatures. It’s not like a more European standard of beauty has always been praised, and has never been taken or perceived as a joke like Black women’s bodies have been.

    (That was sarcasm.)

    I’m not saying that her /intent/ was malicious, but Wozniacki’s actions do not exist in a vacuum. Especially considering race relations and the historical commodification of Black bodies, it is not ‘baseless’ that her actions would be perceived negatively.

    Also, just because commentators of The View never commented or critiqued Armisen’s (who is actually of Venezuelan and Japanese ancestry) portrayal of Barack Obama, does not mean his performance was not problematic, nor does it mean that there were no critiques of SNL’s choice to use him over a Black actor, whether or not the portrayal was laced with good intentions.

  • David says:

    But again, to say that this was an impression of a *black woman’s body* is to accept the idea that *only* black women look like Serena Williams. In the tennis world alone, players like the French-Canadian Mary Pierce or Hungarian Aniko Kapros share Serena’s voluptuous shape and if they were still around today and had the recognizability of a Serena (or a Maria Sharapova), they would likely be impersonated the same way.

    But people don’t impersonate Serena because of how she looks. Even if Serena was rail-thin or a European “ideal,” other players would do Serena impressions in these non-competitive situations as frequently as they impersonate Sharapova because both are among the two most famous stars of our sport.

    While The View had the right to discuss this, to use incendiary imagery like Wozniacki was a step away from having “a bone through [her] nose” to describe one of the most global, diverse sports in the world ultimately makes their accusation baseless, and that is why I wrote this piece.

    ~DK

  • ironymobile says:

    This piece makes a number of very good points. I also happen to think the charges of racism against Wozniacki are misplaced and overblown, the personal attacks on her regrettable, and the discussion of tennis in this context unfortunate.

    Two quick points. First, the Fred Armisen comparison falls flat. He is a paid actor on a comedy sketch show whose job includes mimicking public figures. Wozniacki & other professional tennis players may entertain audiences, but they are not entertainers whose primary job includes this sort of performance (which is central to Armisen’s work).

    Second, regarding Manixdk’s comment that “this [i.e., negative reactions to Wozniacki's impersonation] seems to be almost a purely American phenomenon,” why is this surprising? The player who was being imitated is an American. Most of the world’s best-known black celebrities are athletes, musicians, or actors who work in the US. The US is the largest media market in the world. More tennis tournaments take place in the US than in any other nation. If Wozniacki did a controversial imitation of Novak Djokovic, wouldn’t you expect the largest outcry to come from Serbia?

    On top of this, unless you were there (and probably not even then), you have no way of knowing that there was “not a peep from the crowd.” There might have been very quiet peeps; there might have been peeps on the way home or after the fact over the kitchen table. I wonder, too, if you’ve scoured internet sites from the African continent or from European countries, like France, that have significant black populations to see what, if any, response is there. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as they say. It seems odd to suggest that there’s anything unusual about there being a significant American response–or that because the negative response *seems* to be coming mainly from the US that this is a reason to discount it.

  • jeanius says:

    Where are people getting the idea that Williams and Wozniacki are “dear friends” ?

  • Mohammad says:

    We’re a group of voklunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your site offfered us with valuable info to work on. You’ve done a
    formidable job and ouur whole commkunity will be grateful to you.

  • I just want to say I am newbie to blogging and definitely savored you’re web site. More than likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You absolutely have terrific stories. Kudos for revealing your website.

  • I simply want to tell you that I’m all new to blogging and site-building and truly savored this web blog. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely have perfect posts. Kudos for revealing your website page.

  • great post says:

    I just want to tell you that I am very new to blogs and certainly savored you’re blog. Most likely I’m want to bookmark your site . You surely come with wonderful article content. Cheers for sharing with us your blog site.

  • good website says:

    I just want to mention I am newbie to blogging and site-building and actually liked your page. Likely I’m want to bookmark your site . You amazingly come with beneficial articles. Many thanks for sharing with us your website.

  • browse link says:

    I just want to mention I’m newbie to blogging and site-building and honestly savored your web site. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your website . You amazingly have amazing articles. With thanks for sharing with us your website.

  • full content says:

    I simply want to mention I’m beginner to weblog and certainly savored this blog site. Almost certainly I’m planning to bookmark your site . You definitely come with outstanding writings. Appreciate it for revealing your blog site.

  • good article says:

    I just want to say I’m beginner to weblog and definitely liked this page. Most likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You definitely have perfect article content. Cheers for sharing your web site.

  • good post says:

    I just want to mention I’m very new to blogging and absolutely loved your blog. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You definitely have beneficial writings. Kudos for sharing your website page.

  • full content says:

    I simply want to mention I am just beginner to weblog and seriously loved your web page. Probably I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You actually come with excellent well written articles. With thanks for sharing with us your website.

  • good article says:

    I just want to say I’m all new to blogs and certainly savored this blog. Most likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You amazingly have good articles. Many thanks for sharing with us your website.

  • I just want to mention I am just very new to weblog and actually enjoyed your page. Likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You certainly come with excellent stories. Regards for revealing your web page.

  • go to link says:

    I simply want to tell you that I am just beginner to blogging and site-building and really loved your web-site. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You absolutely come with tremendous articles. Bless you for sharing your webpage.

  • I simply want to say I am beginner to blogging and seriously loved you’re blog site. Likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You absolutely have tremendous well written articles. Many thanks for sharing with us your web page.

  • I just want to tell you that I’m new to blogs and absolutely savored this website. More than likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely have great writings. Bless you for sharing your website page.

  • I just want to say I’m newbie to blogs and honestly liked this blog site. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You certainly have fantastic posts. Many thanks for sharing your website page.

  • good article says:

    I just want to say I am just very new to blogging and site-building and actually enjoyed this web-site. Probably I’m want to bookmark your blog . You surely have fantastic articles and reviews. Thanks a bunch for sharing your web site.

  • I simply want to tell you that I am just very new to blogging and really liked this blog. Probably I’m likely to bookmark your site . You really come with remarkable posts. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your web site.

  • I just want to tell you that I am newbie to blogs and really enjoyed this web-site. Probably I’m want to bookmark your blog . You absolutely come with exceptional posts. Thank you for sharing with us your blog site.

  • check page says:

    I simply want to tell you that I’m new to blogs and really loved you’re blog site. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You amazingly have amazing writings. Thanks a lot for revealing your web page.

  • good link says:

    I simply want to mention I’m newbie to weblog and truly loved you’re web blog. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your site . You really come with excellent articles. Many thanks for revealing your blog.

  • I simply want to say I am very new to blogging and absolutely loved your web blog. Probably I’m likely to bookmark your site . You definitely have fantastic writings. Thanks for sharing with us your web-site.

  • I just want to say I am just newbie to blogs and definitely savored this web site. Probably I’m going to bookmark your blog . You absolutely come with great stories. With thanks for revealing your website page.

  • check page says:

    I just want to mention I am just beginner to blogging and site-building and definitely loved you’re web page. Most likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You definitely have fantastic articles and reviews. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your website page.

  • find more says:

    I just want to mention I am just very new to blogging and site-building and truly loved your page. Almost certainly I’m planning to bookmark your site . You absolutely come with incredible articles and reviews. Thanks a bunch for sharing your web-site.

  • I simply want to tell you that I am new to blogging and site-building and absolutely liked you’re web site. Likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You surely have impressive writings. Regards for sharing with us your web page.

  • I simply want to tell you that I am just beginner to blogging and certainly savored you’re web-site. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You amazingly have terrific stories. Thanks a lot for revealing your website.

  • great info says:

    I simply want to mention I am just newbie to blogging and honestly savored you’re web-site. More than likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You certainly come with remarkable articles and reviews. Cheers for revealing your website page.

  • I just want to say I’m beginner to blogs and honestly savored you’re page. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You really come with impressive writings. Kudos for revealing your web page.

  • good content says:

    I simply want to say I am all new to blogging and site-building and really enjoyed this page. Most likely I’m likely to bookmark your website . You amazingly have terrific writings. Thanks for revealing your website page.

  • continue says:

    I just want to say I am very new to blogging and definitely loved you’re web site. More than likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You definitely have good well written articles. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your blog site.

  • browse post says:

    I simply want to tell you that I’m very new to weblog and certainly savored you’re blog site. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your website . You certainly have terrific stories. Cheers for revealing your website page.

  • browse link says:

    I simply want to tell you that I am beginner to blogging and site-building and absolutely liked this blog site. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your site . You surely come with terrific article content. Bless you for sharing with us your website.

  • good info says:

    I just want to mention I am just all new to weblog and actually liked your blog. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You actually come with perfect well written articles. Cheers for revealing your web page.

  • go to info says:

    I simply want to tell you that I am beginner to blogging and site-building and truly savored your blog site. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You actually have good well written articles. Kudos for sharing your web page.

  • I just want to tell you that I am very new to blogging and site-building and really enjoyed this web page. Very likely I’m going to bookmark your website . You really come with perfect article content. Thanks a lot for sharing your web site.

  • go to post says:

    I simply want to say I’m newbie to weblog and honestly enjoyed this page. Likely I’m going to bookmark your blog . You actually have terrific articles. With thanks for sharing with us your web site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>