Tennis: Wimbledon 99 - Stevenson's racism riposte

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The Independent Online
ALEXANDRA STEVENSON, the 18-year-old African American qualifier, progressed to the quarter-finals here yesterday and then confirmed that she had been racially abused at a juniors tournament in Roehampton last year.

"At Roehampton I was called a nigger in the juniors," she said, when asked about comments, attributed to her mother and printed in a Sunday newspaper last weekend, that suggested life on the women's tour was rife with racism. "When you think about it, there's racism everywhere in the world and its no different on tour," she said, adding that she would be taking the matter up with the WTA.

Stevenson said other comments attributed to her mother - including a suggestion that predatory lesbians were a problem on the tour - had been misquotes, but said in a statement before she began her post-match press conference: "In America, we have freedom of speech, as you do in England. My mother merely expressed our family's view of life and she's right. Life on tour is quite tough."

Life on the court got quite tough for Stevenson yesterday on her way to a 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 victory over her compatriot Lisa Raymond. The first set quickly went the 25-year-old Raymond's way and Stevenson looked to be on her way home as she trailed in a tie-break in the second. The teenager rallied, however, and eventually took the second set with a forehand she called "my trademark shot". The third set was over as quickly as the first.

"I thought the first set was going to slip away from me rather quickly, as you saw it did," Stevenson said. "But I knew that I could come back and win the match, and I did."

The victory guarantees that there will be at least one qualifier in the semi-finals as Stevenson faces the 16-year Australian, Jelena Dokic, in the quarter-final. Yesterday's other results mean that there will be four teenage quarter-finalists in total, the others being the American Venus Williams, 19, and the Croatian Mirjana Lucic, 17.

Lucic, who eliminated Monica Seles in the third round, progressed yesterday with a straight sets win, 7-5, 6-3, in one hour and 15 minutes, against Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand. She now faces last year's losing finalist, the 31-year-old Nathalie Tauziat of France, who beat Dominique van Roost of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Tauziat's performance was far from convincing until the latter stages of the match. Having lost the second set, she was 3-2 down in the third with van Roost serving but responded to the challenge.

Steffi Graf took just a few minutes to complete a 6-2, 6-2 victory over 16-year-old Kim Clijsters and now goes on to a more difficult assignment against Williams.