May 15, 2024

Open Court



It’s been a few days now. 

And the video of the drama that erupted after a second-round match between Canadian Katherine Sebov and American Alycia Parks at the $60,000 ITF Henderson Tennis Open in Nevada has made its way around the world.

And not just on social media.

A lot of outlets have picked it up and run it through the clickbait mill, beginning with the relentless TMZ.

But it went well beyond that; two female professional athletes getting physical on a tennis court is an unusual enough occurrence that it captured a lot of attention.

The Sun, a tabloid in the U.K., went on about the two “tennis starlets”. 

Fox News Channel, cutting and pasting various other sources, weighed in.

Reddit has a thread on it, with the comments mostly unfavorable to Parks.

Parks herself Tweeted about it (taking to Twitter after an eight-month absence). Her mother Erica took on all comers on her Twitter feed. Tour player Sachia Vickery, who had been playing a match at same time but, after retiring with an injury said she went over to the court and witnessed the incident, waded in.

Even Parks’s father and coach, Michael – a major player in this drama – was exchanging with people in a tennis coaches forum on Facebook.

Sebov and mother offer a contrasting account

There has been support for both sides in this issue. But the discourse generally has been virulent and … charged.

The entire Parks family has actively participated. And the parents have accused Sebov’s mother (who is not a tennis coach but who travels with her daughter) of constantly giving coaching signals.

What hasn’t been out there is the … other side of the story.

Sebov is not on Twitter. But she began getting wind of all of the drama, even hearing it had spread all the way to the Russian media.

Open Court spoke to both Sebov and her mother, Oksana Petrovska, by phone on Saturday night.

Here is what they said.

On realizing that the incident had become big news

Sebov: “I was very surprised that it went on Fox News. Today I was told TMZ took it.  And Russian national news. I didn’t think it would be such a crazy event. All I did was have a world-class handshake. I didn’t say anything,” Sebov said. 

“I don’t have Twitter. I saw the Tweets because they’re everywhere.  What Parks said is pure lies, and I’d like to emphasize that. If people are taking her side, it’s just that they don’t know the whole story.”

On the handshake

Sebov: “What you guys didn’t see was that (as Parks arrived at the net) she was mocking my celebrating in a very disrespectful manner, with the head bob. That was her imitating me … She wanted to give me the limp fish (handshake).

I just took her hand firmly, gave her a professional handshake, and walked away to my bag. I didn’t realize she was charging at me until she was very close on my side. The refs and line umpires were having trouble holding her back. As a reflex I just blocked her, to defend myself.”

“Her dad toppled onto the court, and he ran, implying that I’m racist or whatever. Which is completely ridiculous.

“During the match, also … you can maybe hear … the dad was saying things in between my serves. ‘Let’s go Alicia’.  ‘Here you go, Alicia’, when I had a double fault or an unforced error. Her mom in the second set would call me a cheater – loud – in between my service points.”

On Parks’ father and coach, Michael

Petrovska: The tournament director actually stood behind my back all the second set, so the guy (Parks’s father) didn’t come charging me at the back. The father was pacing back and forth.  He is known not to keep his temper, really. So quite a bit of drama before the end of the match.”

On the accusations of coaching from Erica Parks

Petrovska: “I wasn’t coaching her. If they have video, they should show it. I was saying, ‘Stay tough Kat, Let’s go. One point at a time.’ (Parks’s mother) was going after me. I was trying to stay calm. They wanted to provoke me to explode and I just stayed calm. Just said to myself, ‘Just get through this hell of an hour. And hopefully be on the winning side.”

 On the physical contact

Sebov: “She was saying things (at the net), but it was kind of hard to understand her because she was so blind with anger. When she was coming at me I was surprised, because I didn’t know that was going to happen. I sort of blocked her, but that was about it.

“I wasn’t scared. I just thought the whole situation was ridiculous. Because I didn’t do anything to her. I didn’t irritate her in any way during the match. It was all her.”

Petrovska said she had turned away from the match when it ended and had begun to walk away. And then heck broke loose. 

YouTuber posts 23-minute “explainer” video

On Sunday, a YouTuber named Paris Milan, who has 177,000 subscribers (!!!!), put together a … 23-minute video “explainer”, outlining everything that occurred in the aftermath of the match.

It is selective, and doesn’t even show Michael Parks’s part in this melodrama.

Milan believes that it was “100 per cent” racially motivated, and that “of course” Sebov “is going to play the victim”. She even chided high-profile tennis players like Sloane Stephens (she calls her a “white appeaser”) and the Williams sisters for not coming out to support Parks.

She also claims that the ITF “pretty much governs WTA in a partnership capacity”. Hmmm, okay.

So … it is what it is. The video also has been reTweeted by both Alycia Parks and her mother, securing their official endorsement as an accurate telling of their version of events.

So we’re including it here. It’s probably best to skip past the comments; they’re shocking (even for YouTube).

Undercard in Redding

As it turns out, some preliminary drama set the tone for this second encounter between Sebov and Parks.

The two first met in the semifinals of a $25,000 ITF in Redding, California in September. Parks, unseeded, defeated top seed Sebov before losing to Gabriela Talaba in the final.

But there, Petrovska said, the behaviour was a little concerning.

“The whole week, he was coming to Kat’s matches. I didn’t know who he was,” Petrovska said of Michael Parks. “He was cheering for (her opponents): a British player (Tara Moore), a New Zealand player (Paige Hourigan) and an American player (Ellie Douglas).

“After the match with Douglas, he came to Kat and put an arm on her shoulder and says, ‘Good match’ – even though he’d been cheering for Ellie. Then I realized that Kat was playing his daughter (in the quarterfinals). I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t know those people. The atmosphere was a little unpleasant.  What he was saying between serves, cheering on mistakes like double faults.

“We kind of walked away from this match, but didn’t make a big deal about it. But coming into this one, I was expecting that people would be aggressive from behind the court. I knew what could happen.”

The aftermath

Within an hour or so of the end of this match, both Sebov and Petrovska spoke to the tournament officials, as did Parks and her father/coach.

At that time, it was unclear whether there was video evidence – at least, video of what occurred after the handshake, when the camera might normally be turned off.

As it turns out, there was.

The following day, either the police or a security company showed up at the tournament site, a lovely country club in the Las Vegas suburbs. Michael Parks reportedly was the one who called; it’s unknown whether there was a police report filed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Parks attended Sebov’s next match, where she defeated veteran Olga Govortsova 6-3, 6-2. Sebov lost in the semifinals to Anhelina Kalinina.

We’ll keep you posted on whether there are any penalties or suspensions laid down by the ITF or the USTA as a result of the incident.

Michael Parks’ behaviour after the match may well be what the ITF leans most heavily on.

Beyond what occurred during the match, there was his tumble over the fence onto the court (and his impressive, cat-like recovery). There also was his repeated insistence that the tournament should “forfeit that girl” and “forfeit that garbage”.

And then, as Parks addressed the fans who we still sitting there observing the drama, the “See what we go through?” refrain that included a reference to the “sh… crap Serena do”.

An experience Sebov will take as positive

Meanwhile, Sebov has determined to take the positives out of the situation.

She was to play the WTA 125K event in Houston this week, and was in the draw. But she pulled out Saturday because her shoulder wasn’t up to it.

“I just think that if I’m so tough to keep my cool in the match that I had a couple of days ago, nothing can hurt me. That was the most extreme thing that could have happened. I think this experience only made me tougher,” she said.

“I’m a very fair player. I always have been. I pride myself on that.  I treat everyone with respect.  All of these girls, even though they’re my competitors, I look them in the eye and tell them good morning. I saw (Parks) in the change room (before the match). She looked me in the eye and didn’t say anything, and I said, ‘Good morning’. I have a clear conscience, because I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”

And if she meets Parks again on the ITF circuit?

“I’m going to prepare, just like I do any other match. I’ll be cool, just play my game. And do the best that I can that day. I’m not going to feel any anger towards her. Or try to do anything out of the ordinary,” Sebov said.

“I don’t care about the drama.  I’m here to play tennis. I don’t need all this crap around me.  I don’t have the energy and time to deal with this. I have much bigger plans on my plate.”

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