Tennys Sandgren was given a mauling on and off the court during his Australian Open quarter-final on Wednesday. The American, who was forced to deny he is a far-right sympathiser earlier in the week, was soundly beaten by Hyeon Chung in straight sets shortly after Serena Williams fired a shot at the 26-year-old on Twitter.
Sandgren had earlier deleted the vast majority of his tweets after he was questioned why he followed a collection of far-right figures on Twitter. Inevitably, many of those deleted tweets had already been taken as screenshots. One apparently linked to a story about Williams using foul language on court with the comment “disgusting” underneath.
Whether or not she had seen the screenshots circulating on Twitter, Williams appears to have little time for Sandgren. One minute after ESPN’s broadcast of Sandgren’s match started Williams tweeted out two words: “Turns channel”. Williams is not defending her title at this year’s Australian Open after giving birth to her daughter last September. She will make her return to competitive tennis next month at the Fed Cup.
On Wednesday, Williams addressed Sandgren directly. “I don’t need or want [an apology],” she wrote on Twitter. “But there is a entire group of people that deserves an apology. I cant look at my daughter and tell her I sat back and was quiet. No! she will know how to stand up for herself and others – through my example.”
Although Williams did not specify which group Sandgren should apologise to, screenshots attributed to the 26-year-old showed him making derogatory comments about black people and Muslims. He also said a visit to a gay nightclub had left his eyes “bleeding”.
After his defeat to rising star Chung, Sandgren addressed the furore by reading from a prepared statement. He refused to take any questions other than those to do with tennis.
“You seek to put people in these little boxes so that you can order the world in your already assumed preconceived ideas,” he said. “You strip away any individuality for the sake of demonising by way of the collective.
“With a handful of follows and some likes on Twitter, my fate has been sealed in your minds. To write an edgy story, to create sensationalist coverage, there are a few lengths you wouldn’t go to to mark me as the man you desperately want me to be.
“You would rather perpetuate propaganda machines instead of researching information from a host of angles and perspectives while being willing to learn, change, and grow.”
The avowed Christian added: “You dehumanise with pen and paper and turn neighbour against neighbour. In so doing, you may actually find you’re hastening the hell you wish to avoid, the hell we all wish to avoid.”
On Tuesday, Sandgren said he had deleted his tweets to “make a cleaner start”. He added: “People can screenshot, save and distribute everything they would like to. I know that, and that’s fine. It is what it is. It’s just something that I thought wouldn’t be a bad way to kind of move forward.”
He also denied once again he held far-right views. “[It’s] not really specific ‘alt-right’ content that I deem of value, I think that’s very incorrect, and I don’t find information like that to be of value or to hold on to any of those things,” he said. “So it’s not who I am as a person in any way.”
Sandgren offered little resistance to Chung on the court. The unseeded Korean will now face Roger Federer in the semi-final.
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