The Women’s Tennis Association is investigating what it called an “unfortunate incident” at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this week, which sparked accusations of racism and poor sportsmanship as well as an outpouring of support for Chinese tennis champion Zhang Shuai.
Zhang broke down on the court and ultimately retired from a match at the Grand Prix in Budapest on Tuesday, after her opponent, Hungarian player Amarissa Toth, appeared to rub out a ball mark with her shoe in response to a disputed call. Zhang quit the match in the first set. It ended at 6-5 with Toth in the lead.
The dispute happened when a shot from Zhang appeared to land inside the boundary line on Toth’s side, but was ultimately called out. Zhang later asked for a supervisor to review the call, but before anyone arrived, Toth approached the spot on the court where Zhang’s ball had landed and rubbed it out with her foot. The incident was captured on video since the match was televised.
“Wait, wait, wait! Keep the mark,” Zhang is heard saying to her opponent. “What are you doing? Why would you do that?”
Zhang was then seeing crying briefly along the sidelines of the court before shaking hands with Toth and the umpire, and retiring from the match while the crowd booed.
“The WTA has zero tolerance for racism in any form or context,” the WTA tweeted. “The unfortunate incident that took place yesterday at the Hungarian (Budapest) Grand Prix and subsequent posts are being reviewed and will be addressed.”
One post that appeared to be taken down from the Hungarian Grand Prix’s Facebook page drew particular criticism from the tennis community. In a comment shared below one of its posts after the match, which continued to make the rounds on Twitter in a multitude of screenshots later in the week, the tournament seemed to defend the umpire’s initial call and Toth’s win, writing, “The Chinese are manipulating the world with a manipulative video.”
Zhang acknowledged the incident Wednesday on Instagram. “All efforts on practice was wrong , because when you wanted hitting closer to the line, even touched the line, but still called OUT ….. I love you guys and all girls who supporting me and standing my side,” she captioned a post.
Numerous professional tennis players have spoken out against the Hungarian Grand Prix and Toth, and in support of Zhang.
“That’s another level of unsportsmanlike conduct. Just wow,” Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka tweeted.
“Toth ‘won’ this point and ‘won’ this match but her reputation is ruined,” said Daria Saville, of Australia, in another reaction to the dispute on Twitter.
“Absolutely disgusting behavior. Shuai is a better person than a lot of us for shaking the ref and that girls hand,” wrote Ajla Tomljanović, another Australian tennis pro. “But then again it’s Shuai we are talking about , ofc she did.”
“Well that’s a quick way to lose respect from your peers. I’m actually shook by the level of disrespect from this girl,” Ellen Perez, also of Australia, wrote in another tweet, referencing Toth.
WTA has not shared details about its review of the match or how it was handled by the Hungarian Grand Prix.