Thiago Seyboth Wild’s mistake on his biggest day – CLAY Analysis
PARIS – As Thiago Seyboth Wild was shaking off Daniil Medvedev with serves and forehands on the Roland Garros Centre Court, one question kept coming up from spectators and reporters alike: who is this guy?
Logical. The Brazilian arrived in Paris as world number 172, and very few remembered that 2020 title at the ATP in Chile, just before the pandemic broke out. Even fewer remembered that Seyboth Wild was a US Open junior champion in 2018.
The next step was to google, and in doing so, many came across a story from UOL, Brazil’s leading online news site, by journalist Alexandre Cossenza. It was a news item dated 27 October 2021 that spoke of domestic violence and a judicial investigation into what happened between the tennis player and his then partner, the influencer Thayane Lima.
No professional journalist could ignore that article published by one of the most influential media in Brazil, a story that had an added problem: after that 2021 publication, no relevant news about the case appeared in the search engines.
Tennis players are obliged to hold a press conference after every match. This is the opportunity to ask them about what happened on the court or about anything else. Jannik Schneider, a German journalist, asked the obligatory question as politely and empathetically as possible. Schneider is human, he would have preferred to ask that question in other circumstances, but there was no other opportunity to have a direct contact with the protagonist, the questions could only be asked at that moment.
The question was professionally impeccable, but 23-year-old Seyboth Wild’s face was transfigured. He was deeply angry, something that was evident in his response.
“I don’t think it’s a subject we should talk about it right here. I don’t think it’s a question you should be making to anybody. I don’t think it comes to you to decide whether it’s a place to be spoken of or not.”
Schneider answered the obvious: I’m just trying to get your side of the story. But the Brazilian doesn’t seem to be trained in dealing with the press and doesn’t seem to know what journalism really consists of.
“You can write whatever you want. By the way, I was never married. Okay? So just leave that out.”
There are several things Seyboth Wild doesn’t know or understand that someone should explain to him. One of them is that the journalist was not attacking him, quite the opposite: he was giving him a chance, he was doing him a big favour.
When a sportsman jumps into the limelight for a sporting feat, as in the case of Seyboth Wild, and within three seconds of a Google search what comes up is a profoundly negative story about him, the smart thing to do is to confront the issue and say what needs to be said. Getting angry at the journalist, disqualifying him or her and refusing to talk about it only adds to the rumour mill and misinformation.
Another thing someone should explain to Seyboth Wild is that the press room is a journalist’s territory where you can ask questions about whatever you want. And the protagonist has the right to say that he doesn’t want to talk about it, but not to disqualify the journalist, let alone tell him that this is a question he shouldn’t ask. What is said is important, but the way it is said is also important. On both counts, the Brazilian failed.
Seyboth Wild was the hero of the day, a man admired by all. What better opportunity to step up and speak out? When he failed to do so, the news in the hours that followed was not just of his great triumph. No, the success over Medvedev shared space with a confusing story and an even more confusing anger. Many media outlets around the world highlighted this.
Well advised, Seyboth Wild could have avoided that image stumble. It was a big mistake on his big day.
In 1997, 26 years ago, another Brazilian, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten, shocked the world with an incredible success at Roland Garros. His agent, like Seyboth Wild’s today, was Peruvian Jorge Salkeld, vice-president of Octagon.
A Brazilian reader commented on CLAY‘s article on Tuesday saying that it was “exaggerated” to claim that, after the great success on the Philippe Chatrier, Seyboth Wild was entitled, at least for that day, to carry the nickname “Guga”.
In CLAY‘s opinion, no, it was not an exaggeration: Seyboth Wild played electric, powerful and colourful tennis on one of the sport’s greatest stages. Just as Kuerten did in his time. It was well worth, then, nicknaming him “Guga” on Tuesday 30 May 2023. Later on, it will be seen.
It is true, however, that the original “Guga” had a different mood, a different attitude. After each of the seven matches en route to the first of his three Roland Garros titles, at just 20 years of age, he also faced complex questions from the press. One that kept coming up was the death of his father while he was umpiring a tennis match as a chair umpire. Another was the situation of his brother Guilherme, suffering from cerebral palsy. Kuerten’s brother died in 2007.
During very long press conferences in English, Portuguese and sometimes other languages, Kuerten never showed a bad gesture, never mistreated a journalist. Even if he didn’t like the question. Either he was very well advised or he naturally understood things that any professional sportsman should understand. This is not the case with Seyboth Wild, who has an advantage: he is still young, he can learn, he has time to be well advised. And this Thursday, after his second round match at the French Open, he has a new opportunity.