Tennis players harassed over Twitter; gambling possibly a factor

It's no secret that the Internet's full of idiots — not you, dear reader, never you — and that plenty of keyboard tough guys love to vent at celebrities, athletes and other public figures from behind a wall of anonymity on Twitter. But as Slate notes this week, plenty of tennis players are getting some inexplicable criticism.

Take, for example, Alex Kuznetsov. The virtually anonymous player, ranked 171st in the world, played his way into the French Open ... where he proceeded to lose in the first round. So what, right? Guy made it to a major, that's more than most of us will ever do. But of course that wasn't enough for some Twitter folk. A sample:

And Tim Smyczek, who lost in a French Open qualifying draw, caught heat as well. Here's one of his retweets of a fan:

"The most plausible explanation for the attacks leveled at Kuznetsov and his little-known tennis-playing ilk is that there’s money on the line," writes Slate's Ben Rothenberg. "Oddsmakers had made Kuznetsov a marginal favorite against Lucas Pouille. When he lost, he faced the wrath of those who had bet on him. While not all insulting post-defeat tweets mention gambling directly, tennis players believe that’s typically the motivation."

What's interesting is how many of the tweets come from Eastern Europe, where online gambling is legal and tennis gambling is omnipresent. And tennis offers the angry gambler the tempting target of a single human being: you can't yell at a horse, a deck of cards or a lottery ticket for falling short, after all.

It's an ugly sidelight to social media, and one that's not likely to change anytime soon. We've always behaved badly; now we can do it in front of the entire world.

Just be careful, cyber-tough guys. You might just anger some athlete or celebrity enough that they come hunt you down. It's happened before.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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