Sebov tells her side of post-match drama vs. Parks

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

Erica Parks, mother of Alycia, accused Sebov’s mother of using coaching signals and posted this photo on Twitter as evidence).

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) 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.

Tennis.Life 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).

Sebov celebrates – loudly – after a tense second set and a victory against Alycia Parks in the second round of the Henderson Tennis Open.

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.”

Sebov v Parks – a tennis match

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
Sachia Vickery, who had retired from a second-round match played at the same time as the Parks-Sebov encounter,  says she went to the court and witnessed the finale.

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

Alicia Parks began the season outside the top 700, but will be at a career-best of about No. 386 when the new rankings are released.

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.

Sebov, who got just three games in her US Open qualifying debut against Lara Arruabarrena this year, gives a similarly firm handshake. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

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 sincluded 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.”

Sebov versus Parks – a tennis match

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.

Sebov

But Parks, who began the season at No. 722, has risen nearly 350 spots in 2019.

Sebov tells her side of post-match drama vs. Parks

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.

Parks struggled with her legs and her breathing throughout the contentious match.

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.

Sebov
This was a familiar scene throughout the match – Parks doubled over, struggling to catch her breath. Perhaps the Vegas altitude was getting to her a little, or she was struggling with a cold. But it was clear she had multiple issues during the match that were unrelated to anything the Sebovs may or may not have done.

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
Imagine if someone hadn’t come to re-install the camera – none of this drama would have been available to dissect in the aftermath. (YouTube)

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.

Dramatic tiebreak

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.