16-year-old tennis star’s ‘creepy’ celebration with father causes outrage at US Open

Czech tennis star, 16, insists bizarre celebrations where her father and her coach grabbed her backside in US Open qualifying ‘won’t happen again’ after outrage – but says it’s ‘NORMAL in her country’

  • A video of the incident sparked conversation and concern across the internet
  • But Sara Bejlek says this wouldn’t be an incident back in the Czech Republic
  • After discussions, she said that kind of celebration wouldn’t be repeated
  • Bejlek qualified for her first tennis major, falling in the first round in straight sets

Sara Bejlek is already out of the US Open but thanks to an awkward video that has gone viral, she has already become one of the talking points of the week.

The 16-year-old Czech qualified for her first Grand Slam tournament by defeating a number of opponents last week, including an impressive win over the UK’s Heather Watson.

After that Watson victory, cameras caught two men – identified as Bejlek’s father and coach – celebrating with her.

As the cameras lingered, both men were seen patting her on the backside with her father seemingly kissing her on the mouth.

While social media made calls for the WTA to investigate the incident, Bejlek shared her thoughts on the incident.

‘Of course I saw the video. It was a spontaneous reaction of the whole team. We rejoiced,’ Bejlek said to reporters.

‘It may certainly seem inconvenient and uncomfortable to some, but we have already discussed it with the team. It won’t happen again.’

While that incident occurred during her first qualifying match, it gained traction just before she took on the world No. 35 player Liudmila Samsonova of Russia.

She lost that match in straight sets 6-3, 6-1.

Before that match, she responded to concerns and criticisms of the two men pictured.

‘Dad is my dad and always will be. And I’ve known the coach since I was eight years old. He tapes me, he massages me,’ she added.

‘If something similar happened in the Czech Republic, no one would deal with it. But since we are in America, everyone comments on it.

‘But as I say, we talked and it won’t happen again.’

Many might view the ‘bum patting’ exhibited by 16-year-old Sara Bejlek’s father and coach after her resounding victory over Britain’s Heather Watson as a step too far.

However, in the Czech Republic – and in other Central and Eastern European countries – ‘bum patting’ is a common sign of affection.

While one wouldn’t greet a stranger with a pat on the backside, between family members or close friends it is a way to congratulate, to greet, or a gesture for good luck – akin to giving someone a pat on the back.

And while in some countries it might be frowned upon, it is not considered unusual for the men in a family – such as fathers or uncles – to pat the behinds of the younger women.

This is taken even further each year at Easter with the ‘Pomlázka’ – or Easter Whip – tradition, that is observed in the Czech Republic, as well as Slovakia and some parts of Hungary.

For the tradition, men will go house-to-house on Easter Monday morning spanking local women with a special handmade whip or switch made from wooden branches (such as willow), decorated with coloured ribbons.

Women, meanwhile, traditionally wore long dresses as protection against the Pomlázka – although jeans are now the preferred choice.

The tradition also involves songs about eggs, spring time, bountifulness and fertility. Tradition says that women should be spanked with a whip in order to keep their health, beauty and fertility throughout the following year.

In return, women will give the men decorated hard boiled eggs and a shot of strong alcohol (such as slivovice, or plum brandy).

A survey in 2019 found 60 percent of Czech households keep the tradition, that dates back to the 14th century.


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