WTA tea: Angry Pavlyuchenkova wanted to hit Stephens with a tennis racquet

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When asked to describe her most recent on-court conflict, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova talked about a match at the China Open when she was so angry at Sloane Stephens that she wanted to smack her with a tennis racquet.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

In the first round of the 2018 China Open in Beijing, Pavlyuchenkova won a long first set 7-6(8) and because of a shoulder problem called a physio while being 5-2 down in the second set. After receiving treatment, Pavlyuchenkova won two games in a row. Then Stephens, as Pavlyuchenkova explains, approached the chair umpire and sarcastically yelled: “So, the physio cured her? Don’t you see she has an injury?”

The fact that Stephens believed that Pavlyuchenkova faked the injury infuriated Pavlyuchenkova, who lost the second set 6-4 and then went to Stephens’ side and started arguing with her. The umpire tried to separate them, as Pavlyuchenkova was boiling with anger and felt like hitting Stephens with her tennis racquet.

“Many people never see this side of me, but I can be very aggressive,” Pavlyuchenkova explained in a recent interview. “During the third set, I planned to intentionally smash a powerful overhead into her stomach.” Pavlyuchenkova actually did try it but it didn’t work out. Stephens realized it, cursed aloud and called Pavlyuchenkova vulgar names. Recalling this incident, Pavlyuchenkova said: “I hated her so much for that.”

Stephens won that match in three sets, while Pavlyuchenkova won their only subsequent encounter, also in three sets, at the 2019 Australian Open.

Later on, the WTA players sorted things out and overcame the on-court fight.


  1. Allowing physiotherapy during a match is absurd. It should be wiped off the rule book. If you’re hurt enough to need physiotherapy you should play with the pain or forfeit the match. No one deserves rest and repair time during a tennis match. Show up ready to play or don’t show up at all. Taking physiotherapy time during a tennis match is equal to cheating.


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