WTA slams SI’s fictitious report
Portrayal of ‘Popova’ meant in good fun, reporter says
NEW YORK, Sept. 3 — Sports Illustrated writer Jon Wertheim has some advice for WTA officials. “They need to relax,” he said. “They take themselves far too seriously.”
WERTHEIM WROTE THIS WEEK about Simonya Popova, a gorgeous 17-year-old junior player from Uzbekistan. She sounds too good to be true, maybe because she’s not true.
"That’s the great thing about fiction,” Wertheim said.
The WTA, however, was not amused.
Spokesman Chris De Maria called the story deceiving and was annoyed at its emphasis on Simonya’s sexuality.
“It was misleading and irritating,” he said. “There are a lot of great stories out there. We didn’t need a fake one.”
Wertheim dropped hints throughout the piece that Simonya — a send-up of the current film about a computer-created movie star named “Simone” — is a made-up character.
“It was meant in good fun, playful and hopefully creative,” he said. “It was not meant as some grand hoax.”
Sports Illustrated has dabbled in fiction before. In 1985, George Plimpton wrote about New York Mets pitching prospect Sidd Finch, who had a 168 mph fastball. Like Simonya, no one ever located Finch, least of all the Mets.