Petkovic talks about death threats in tennis

Petkovic talks about death threats in tennis

Because matches will not be as previously wagered, Andrea Petkovic and other professional insults from the worst kind of Bundesliga teams, including Dresden, will fight back.

Andrea Petkovic played for the Bundesliga club Dresden-Blasewitz last weekend. She takes a clear stance on verbal threats on the internet. The 34-year-old believes the problem is a big problem.
© Jürgen Lösel

Dresden. Betting Andrea Petkovic to win the French Open? A lot of money can be placed on the sporting, almost adventurous forecast on the relevant portals. Since gambling has found its way into everyday tennis, professionals have had to deal with the shady and criminal aspects of betting. And that almost every day. The number of insults, insults and even death threats via social media channels has multiplied.

In almost all international tournaments, no matter how small they are, you can place a bet on every game on the internet. Revenue is similarly high – and it lowers the inhibition threshold for those who want to make quick money with their commitment. The Women’s Bundesliga has decided not to broadcast via livestream for this season to make betting impossible. For the men’s Bundesliga, the German Tennis Federation (DTB), on the other hand, has signed a contract with the online streaming service Tennis Channel International. The internet platform works closely with Genius Sports, an American betting broker.

Men are also threatened

The women’s club managers refrain from livestreams, so the professionals are at least protected on Bundesliga match days. So even though you can bet on the results of the men’s Bundesliga worldwide, you can not bet on the women’s. But that’s it in international tournaments. Some women are “massively threatened” via their social media accounts, as the team leader of the Bundesliga club TC Blau-Weiss Dresden-Blasewitz, Sven Grosse, says – mostly via fake profiles. The lawyer has even received death threats from the players under contract at his club. Male professionals also receive such messages. “But they handle it differently, a little more casually,” Grosse says.

Many players find it difficult to address the issue publicly. Andrea Petkovic, the best known active German in tennis after Angelique Kerber, has no problem with that. “I hope you get cancer or your leg falls off,” the 34-year-old quotes one of the more harmless messages. The conversation, if you can call it that, takes place mostly in English. “I’m 34 now, I’ve been reading the same news for ten years, it’s going in and out,” Petkovic says, pointing to her ears.

The former world number nine knows, however, that not all players are so relaxed about it. In this context, Petkovic tells of the young German hope Mara Guth: “Last year after the WTA tournament in Homburg, she received such messages for the first time and cried in my presence with our joint physiotherapist.” you explain that the senders send their hate comments to anyone who does not play the way the players hoped. “It makes it a little easier. You get used to everything,” says Petkovic.

By 2020, professionals should report such messages to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an organization investigating possible manipulation in the sport of tennis. However, the TIU discontinued the service two years ago. Since then, there has been no official point of contact that has dealt with these excesses. “The problem with that is: it has to be a concrete threat of violence or a racist insult,” explains Petkovic, who also works as a sports host for ZDF. “If anyone writes: You stupid bitch, you’re ugly and fat – there’s nothing you can do about it that falls under banal insults.”

Many of the senders do not stop at personal insults. “I hope your family dies in a car accident – many write that too,” she gives another example. At tournaments in the USA, the organizers always make a contact person from the FBI or CIA available to the professionals, so they can quickly investigate any. Meanwhile, similar messages must also be reported to the associations of tennis professionals – WTA for women and ATP for men. However, the results of the study are poor.

Instagram has now installed a feature ”stating that if you block a user, all accounts linked to him will also be blocked. It has gotten a lot better since then, “Petkovic said. Obscene messages are now less frequent.

However, the world-class player would like ATP and WTA to address this issue even more intensively than before, especially in the interests of young professionals. Lara Schmidt also demands it. The former number one in German U18 tennis and active for the Dresden Bundesliga club since 2018 has also had to experience verbal brutalization.

So far, the 22-year-old has only competed in smaller, international tournaments that pay low, five-figure prize money. “After the matches, you get messages that you’d better die. Or those who bet against me are happy when I lose. I get these reports via Instagram or Facebook, “says the woman from Nuremberg. SZ has excerpts from some messages to Schmidt. She is described, among other things, as a disgrace to tennis, as a whore or bitch.

Such incidents are usually limited to verbal insults or threats on the Internet. But there are also exceptions where physical violence could have threatened. At the ATP tournament in Stuttgart in January 2020, according to Lara Schmidt’s memoirs, the police were even called because players were there and loudly expressed their dissatisfaction during the matches.

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The current number 63 in the German rankings reported on many of these messages. “But you do not get any feedback on whether actual persons have been identified. I think it’s sad that there is so little protection as a player. ” Schmidt has no doubt that the associations or the authorities are investigating what is possible. “But that does not change the fact that this continues unabated. The most effective way, of course, would be to get rid of Instagram or Facebook. But you also want to stay in network with each other, ”she argues.

The young woman freely admits that she always finds this news disturbing. “It did not affect me that much before, but after my father’s death I was not able to play for a while at all. Some things just go too far, ”says Schmidt. Her father died unexpectedly in September last year.

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