A lot of people will tell you that you're not doing something right unless haters are trying to bring you down. Still, enough is enough.
After losing to Johanna Konta in the semifinals of Beijing, Madison Keys arrived in Linz fed up and opened up about what kind of notifications she receives after a loss (and sometimes even after a win).
"You ignore them 99 percent of the times, but that day I came off court and I had 45 messages and it was one of these days when I was like 'you know, I am not gonna ignore it today,'" the 21-year-old said. "It wasn’t even that it got to me and that caused to call them out, but it was more like the awareness that this happens every single day. I think we have to be able to do something to fix that."
As the world No. 7 has pointed out, in today's Internet-crazed age, dealing with online haters has become a daily occurrence with insults and death threats becoming the norm amidst the comments of support and congratulations.
Keys is far from the only player who has called attention to the escalating problem. Russia's Alla Kudryavtseva ruptured her Achilles tendon a few weeks ago and said she was relieved to get a break from social media hate.
Hi all. Last Thursday in my singles match I have raptured my Achilles' tendon. I am scheduled for a surgery on Friday in London. My surgeon says I'll make full recovery and will be back on tour in 6-7 months. I'll miss the competition but on the bright side I probably will be free of Social Media haters for 6-7 months! #sopositive #ilovetennis #whyme #notverypositive #notpositiveatall #crutches #surgery
Hold on. A WTA player is relieved to be catastrophically injured because the torrent of hateful comments will temporarily stop. If that's not a massive red flag, then what is?
There has been no shortage of victims in tennis. Earlier this year, Caroline Wozniacki shared similar screenshots of horrific direct messages sent to her after a match. The former No. 1 called out the bullying with a message for peace.
"It's easy to hide behind a screen and write abuse to others," Wozniacki wrote. "At this point I have grown pretty immune to haters, but there are a lot of people out there who are being called names worse than this every day, and they don't have the same voice, to be able to speak up or fight back.. So let's STOP bullying!!"
A lot of the negative messages are a result of lost bets. While much was made of gambling and match-fixing within the sport earlier this year, nothing stops the general public from gambling on matches, and then directing their hate after losses at the players themselves. Sure, it may technically be the player's fault for being so accessible online (because one can adjust privacy settings to block all comments and messages), but they shouldn't be punished for wanting to connect with their fans on platforms that everyone is using freely on a daily basis.
"There has been matches that I have won and still got hate messages: so you win and they hate you, you lose and they hate you…" Keys said. "They write terrible things to me and about my family and this is not okay."
The terrible messages aren't just limited to high-profile stars and WTA players. Fabrice Martin, a doubles specialist, talked about the online abuse he gets after a loss costs gamblers their precious cash.
"The messages are always the same–they want you to die because you lost, how did you lose when you were up a service break, you should quit tennis, you've cost them a thousand euros so they're going to kill you and your entire family," Martin told Vice Sports.
There was also this reaction from Kevin Anderson after a loss in June.
Bummed to have lost yesterday, but at least I had a ton of death threats on facebook and twitter to make me feel better about things...— Kevin Anderson (@kevinanderson18) June 28, 2016
While most of the players shrug their shoulders and get back to business on court, some are much more deeply affected. Former Top 40 Canadian player Rebecca Marino called it quits at the age of 20 after Internet critique rose faster than her skyrocketing ranking.
"You know, there's that saying 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,' " she said in the New York Times. "But that's not true. Names definitely hurt. Words hurt."
Of course, there is counseling and information available for anyone coping with online abuse (even offered by the WTA and ITF). But still, regular harassment aimed at athletes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should, and could be, better controlled, by the sites themselves.
"I think this is the nature of social media: You are always going to have negative comments," Keys said. "However, I think social media should make it harder for them and there should be better ways to report people and keep them away from Twitter and such if they are repeat offenders."