All of the attention on a seemingly random second-round match between Canadian Katherine Sebov and American Alycia Parks at a $60,000 ITF event in the suburbs of Las Vegas was focused on the aftermath.
But let’s look at the actual match.
There was plenty to digest there, as well.
Parks had won the first meeting between the two, earlier in the fall at a $25,000 tournament in Redding, California.
Sebov was the No. 1 seed. The American won it 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals,.
Gabriela Talaba of Romania then defeated Parks in the final.
But Parks, who began the season at No. 722, has risen nearly 350 spots in 2019.
The rematch came at a much larger event, the $60,000 Henderson Tennis Open. And this second-round match came on the heels of the biggest victory of Parks’ young career.
Parks upset veteran Kirsten Flipkens – a top-15 player in singles and a top-25 player in doubles during her career – currently ranked No. 95 in singles, in the first round.
But the next day, not much was going right.
Leg issues, breathing problems
Parks was frustrated from the very first game, banging her shoe angrily after losing a point. She was shaking out her legs.
And she seemed to be having trouble breathing – not just after longer points, of which there were not many. When she was on the camera side of the court, the microphone picked up her struggling to get her breath back on numerous occasions.
The racket took a beating most times when she returned to the chair. Parks was doubled over at least two dozen times – if not more – after points. She often urged herself to MOVE.
After losing some points, Parks would bounce the ball sky high in the air. That she didn’t get any code violations for those probably had to do with the fact that none of them left the confines of the court.
After losing the first set 6-0, Parks hobbled off for a bathroom break that extended more than five minutes (although in her defence, we have no idea how far the bathroom was or how long it took to get there).
Drama early in the second set
When the second set finally began, with Sebov serving, Parks’ father/coach Michael, could clearly be overheard encouraging his daughter – except it came between Sebov’s first and second serves. And Mr. Parks was sitting on the bench right in front of Sebov.
By deuce, Parks politely questioned the umpire when a Sebov serve was called in. Then she addressed Sebov’s mother Oksana (who was sitting on her side, and likely had offered up her unsolicited opinion on the service call).
“I’m not talking to you; don’t say nothing to me,” Parks said.
After Sebov held, Parks told the umpire on the change of ends to tell Sebov’s mother “not to talk to her”.
The chair umpire immediately left the chair, motioned for Mr. Parks to come over, and addressed both parents.
You couldn’t really hear Sebov’s mother, but you could sure hear Parks’ father/coach.
“Every time I say something or complain about something it’s on me. She (meaning Sebov’s mom) was nasty the last match. She got a pass,” he said.
And then, to a response from Sebov’s mother, he said this:
“Shut up, lady. Nah, go sit down. Don’t say nothing.”
And as he walked away he began speaking to … no one in particular.
“That’s what they do,” he said. “That’s what they do.”
He would repeat that mantra numerous times after the match was over.
Second set more competitive
Parks was more competitive in the second set and got the early break although early on, her father wasn’t exactly going out of his way not to distract her opponent.
During the 2-2 game Sebov was serving, Mr. Parks carried on a whole conversation on the sidelines, on the same side of the court, during the game. A couple came up and spoke to him, and he kept pointing over to Sebov’s mother. It continued during the changeover, even as his daughter came over to his side of the court and was about to serve.
During that 2-3 game, Parks was doubled over several times. You could hear she was having trouble breathing. At 30-40, she was almost in tears, doubled over again, had trouble catching her breath.
By 3-3, Parks was complaining about her legs.
“This is, like, literally, you can’t have an off-day in these types of tournaments … Seriously…” she said – to herself, as calm and rationally as anyone could, under the circumstances.
It was more than an off-day; Parks was beating herself with unforced errors – mostly, forehands dumped into the bottom of the net – very early in the points. Sebov, a very steady player who was returning her big serves effectively, was the worst opponent she could have faced.
The doubling over and the slamming of the racket against her shoes continued, though, and Sebov broke to lead 5-3.
Parks bounced one of the match balls sky high; it landed in the court. No harm done.
As Sebov was about to serve for the match, Mr. Parks walked down the length of the court, said something to Sebov’s mom on the way out. He was back after one point, still muttering, and took his seat back over on Sebov’s side of the court.
Parks broke her in that game, and got the match back to 5-5.
In that game, Parks missed a slice she had to run to mid-court to chase down, slammed her racket on her right foot, and let out a sob. The breathing issues continued. Sebov held for 6-5.
At THAT point, the static camera hooked up to the top of the fence … fell down.
Sebov protested mildly at 40-30 when a Parks serve, originally called long, was corrected. But it didn’t result in a replay of the point. The umpire judged the call had come after Sebov hit – and missed – the return. Sebov thought it came before. (The video shows they were almost simultaneous, and that it was unlikely it affected her swing).
So off to the tiebreak they went.
With Sebov up a mini-break at 2-1, the camera was still down. But you can clearly hear someone – likely Parks’ mother, Erica – yell out “Stop that cheating”.
(After that point, the camera was reinstalled!)
Parks had a set point at *5-6 in the tiebreak. Sebov saved it.
At 7-6*, Sebov had a match point. Parks saved it.
At 7-7, Sebov hit a cold winner down the line with her backhand. Parks slammed the ball sky-high in the air again. It didn’t leave the court.
“Shouldn’t she get a violation already? She’s hit so many balls …” Sebov asked the umpire.
Parks saved another match point, on Sebov’s serve. After an eight-shot rally at 8-8, Parks doubled over again.
She saved a third match point at 9-8, on her own serve.
At 9-9 on her serve, after losing the point, the racket got the bounce treatment again.
And after one final error by Parks on the return, with Sebov serving at 10-9, the match was over.
But not the drama.