AAP Tennis

Tennis to help players harassed online

By AAP Newswire

Madison Keys was the US Open runner-up last year and is considered a contender at Wimbledon right now - and, still, total strangers insult her, sometimes with menacing or obscene language, on a regular basis via social media.

"Try to find another job," read one message sent to the American via Twitter after she lost at the Australian Open, while another called her "the most overrated player in all of tennis."

Often, as Keys says, "It's really disgusting, horrible things."

Professional tennis players of every sort - women and men, highly ranked and otherwise, from countries all around the globe - suffer online harassment.

They range from personal insults to threats against family members to complaints from disgruntled gamblers.

To help deal with this, the ATP set up a partnership this year with a company that deals with risk assessment and management, and the WTA is close to finalising a deal with the same group, Theseus.

Thesus works with athletes to tell them whether the item simply can be ignored or is serious enough to warrant alerting law enforcement.

"This is an issue that isn't going to go away," ATP spokesman Simon Higson said.

"It is important that our players are able to understand what they are receiving, why, how to respond and what actions they are advised to take."

The WTA's senior director for athlete assistance, Kathy Martin, said the women's tour has been working for years to educate and counsel players on the issue.

"It's obviously very distressing players are getting messages like that. We take it seriously," she said.

How often do bothersome messages crop up?

"Literally all the time," Keys said. "Sometimes if you win. Sometimes if you pull out of a tournament because you're hurt. Sometimes because someone's mad at you for no apparent reason."

Another factor is gambling's prominence, says Australian John Millman.

"It all stems from betting," he said.

"The bookmakers are very, very quick (to act) when they've lost money and they think someone's throwing a match. But they're not too quick to stop people, who are using their services, from sending abuse to players. It's pretty disgraceful."

Keys, who is seeded 10th at Wimbledon, is one player who replies to insults.

"If we continue to ignore it, then it's going to continue to happen. And if it's happening to us, then it's happening to kids in school or other people who maybe don't have the platform or the comfort to talk about it," Keys said.

"Something needs to be done. And if it's making everyone realise that it happens almost on a daily basis, then I think that's kind of the first step."