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Newspaper reprints controversial cartoon of Serena Williams

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) A cartoon of Serena Williams that has been widely condemned as a racist depiction of the tennis great has been partially reprinted on the front page of the Melbourne-based newspaper that initially published it.

The Herald Sun newspaper printed an edited portion of the cartoon – featuring 23-time Grand Slam winner Williams jumping on a broken racket during her dispute with a chair umpire in the U.S. Open final – among caricatures of other famous people Wednesday under the headline “Welcome to the PC World.”

The newspaper, which has Australia’s largest circulation, has defended its cartoonist Mark Knight’s depiction of Williams and is asserting that the condemnation, which has come from all parts of the world, is driven by political correctness.

“If the self-appointed censors of Mark Knight get their way on his Serena Williams cartoon, our new politically correct life will be very dull indeed,” the paper said on its front page.

Williams has won the Australian Open singles title seven times at Melbourne Park, including in 2017 when she was pregnant. She is a crowd favorite at the first tennis major of the year, which is held each January at a venue that is within sight of the Herald Sun’s headquarters.

In comments published by News Corp., Knight said that he created the cartoon after watching Williams’ “tantrum” during her U.S. Open final loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday and that it was designed to illustrate “her poor behavior on the day, not about race.”

Knight reportedly has disabled his Twitter account after his post of the cartoon attracted tens of thousands of comments, mostly critical.

During the final against Osaka, Williams got a warning from the chair umpire for violating a rarely enforced rule against receiving coaching from the sidelines. An indignant Williams emphatically defended herself, denying she had cheated. A short time later, she smashed her racket in frustration and was docked a point. She protested and demanded an apology from the umpire, who penalized her a game.

Critics of Knight’s cartoon described it as a clear example of a stereotype facing black women, depicting Williams as an irate, hulking, big-mouthed black woman jumping up and down on a broken racket. The umpire was shown telling a blond, slender woman – meant to be Osaka, who is Japanese and Haitian – “Can you just let her win?”

“I was deeply offended. This is not a joke,” said Vanessa K. De Luca, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, who wrote a column about the U.S. Open furor.

The cartoonist “completely missed the point of why she was upset,” De Luca told The Associated Press. “It was about her integrity, and anybody who doesn’t get that is perpetuating the erasure that so many black women feel when they are trying to speak up for themselves. It’s like our opinions don’t matter.”

In a social media post, Peter Blunden, managing director of News Corp.’s operations in the state of Victoria, said: “Australia’s finest cartoonist Mark Knight has the strongest support of his colleagues for his depiction of Serena Williams’ petulance. It’s about bad behavior, certainly not race. The PC brigade are way off the mark … again.”

This isn’t the first time a cartoon in a News Corp. newspaper has drawn allegations of racism. In 2009, civil rights leaders and others criticized a New York Post cartoon that some interpreted as comparing President Barack Obama to a violent chimpanzee.

In Britain, where fiercely competitive tabloids often trade in sensationalism, Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers have been accused of sexism, racism and xenophobia over the years. Last year a former editor of the Murdoch-owned Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, quit as a contributor to the tabloid after writing a column comparing a soccer player with part-Nigerian heritage to a gorilla.

Many years of outrage over articles and cartoons did little to hurt Murdoch’s power over British politics and media, though his papers’ underhanded practices did. Murdoch was forced to shut down the 168-year-old tabloid News of the World in 2011 after the revelation that its employees had eavesdropped on the phone voice mails of celebrities, politicians and crime victims.

Australian indigenous playwright and actress Nakkiah Lui tweeted in response to the front page, saying the Herald Sun needed to “chill.”

“Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom above criticism,” she said.

“What we have is a bunch of people who get paid to publicly exercise their implied freedom to speech then whining when people disagree with what they have had the privilege of being paid to say,” she added.

Australian writer Maxine Beneba Clarke said she believed the front page demonstrated a “misunderstanding” of the criticism leveled at the cartoon.

“I think it’s really interesting that the Herald Sun has not included really any other caricatures or cartoons of black people – either Aboriginal people or African-American people, black people of any descent,” Clarke, who is of Afro-Caribbean descent, told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Cartoonist Paul Zanetti, a friend of Knight, said cartooning was under threat from political correctness, and the Herald Sun front page “spelt out exactly where we are at this point.”

“Political correctness is really all about censoring, it’s about being bullied into conforming to a view of the world,” he said.

Fognini stuns Nadal 6-4, 6-2 to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Fabio Fognini ended Rafael Nadal’s long winning streak at the Monte Carlo Masters, stunning the defending champion 6-4, 6-2 Saturday to reach the final for the first time and hand Nadal his first defeat here since 2015.

The 13th-seeded Italian had beaten Nadal twice before on clay, and also once at the U.S. Open in five sets, but this was arguably the most impressive.

Not since the 2005 final, a five-setter which Nadal won in four sets, had the 11-time champion Nadal been beaten 6-0 in a set here. And Fognini came so close to doing just that.

He served for the match at 5-0 and 40-0, but Nadal saved three match points – and some pride – by breaking back and then holding.

Serving again for the match at 5-2, Fognini hit a superb forehand down the line to clinch victory on his fourth match point.

Nadal’s last defeat here was also in the semifinals, against Novak Djokovic in 2015. He had not lost a set at the clay-court tournament since conceding one in the second round against Britain’s Kyle Edmund in 2017.

Fognini next plays unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic in their first-ever meeting, and one few would have predicted happening here.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic earlier staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

It could have been an all-Serb semifinal but Medvedev knocked out the top-ranked Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean.

Serving for the first set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

Lajovic clinched the first set on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.

The 28-year-old Lajovic was ill before the tournament and said he needed antibiotics to recover.

He struggled to describe his surprise run.

“Incredible … Unreal,” he said, before settling on “It’s been a great week.”

Lajovic stages comeback to reach Monte Carlo final

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MONACO (AP) Unseeded Serb Dusan Lajovic staged a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to beat 10th-seeded Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-1 in the Monte Carlo Masters semifinals on Saturday.

Lajovic won 10 straight games to open up a 4-0 lead in the second set before Medvedev finally held serve. But after saving one match point, the Russian player tamely hit a return long on his opponent’s next opportunity.

The 48th-ranked Lajovic now plays in his first career final against 11-time champion Rafael Nadal or 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

It could have been an all-Serb semi but Medvedev knocked out top-ranked Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Saturday’s match started in difficult conditions, with a heavy wind coming in from the Mediterranean blowing clay around the court.

Serving for the set at 5-1, Medvedev dropped his serve and remonstrated with himself.

He had good cause.

The first-set turnaround was complete when Lajovic clinched it on serve, with Medvedev completely mistiming the ball and sending it skyward.