When tennis stars from across the world arrive in Paris for the French Open, they will be provided with a brand-new tool that aims to help reduce stress.
For the first time, tournament organizers will use artifical Intelligence to filter out abusive comments on popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Tournament officials said the software has the capability to identify and filter out racist, homophobic and other hate speech.
The French Tennis Federation will make the software that was created by Bodyguard.ai available any athlete playing in this year’s tournament.
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Microphones with the logo of the French Open in Paris, June 6, 2021. (Frank Molter/picture alliance via Getty Images)
“Social media is a major conduit for expressing hate and hostility, all under the cover of anonymity,” Yann Guerin, the head of sport at Bodyguard.ai. said. “We must be alert to this sad reality. There’s no avoiding it, as the cost of doing nothing is too high. We would like to thank the French Tennis Federation and the organizers of Roland-Garros for joining this collective fight.”
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Guerin added that in many cases, tennis players are more susceptible to the direct impact of cyberbullying.
“The aim is to protect the players and their mental health directly and indirectly – because their entourages can also read these comments – and ban people intent on spreading hate and being aggressive. Tennis is one of the sports most affected by this curse.”
A French Open official expressed similar sentiments as it related to the importance of prioritizing players’ mental well-being.
“It’s great for the mental well-being of the players,” French Open director Amelie Mauresmo said in a news release sent to Fox New Digital. “It clears the mind and will help everyone have a little more freedom on the court. I can’t wait to see how the players react to it.”
The software will be incorporated into Roland Garros’ official social media platforms, in addition to the players’ social channels.
Bodyguard.ai will provide tournament officials with daily reports about comments. The company will also alert organizers to online accounts that are engaging in abusive language or behavior. Private messages will not be filtered.
In recent years, legendary tennis player Serena Williams has spoken openly about the impact mental stress and anxiety had on her both on and off the court.
Serena Williams in action against Elena Rybakina during Roland Garros on June 6, 2021, in Paris. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)
Four-time Glam Slam winner Naomi Osaka cited depression and anxiety when she decided to withdraw from the 2021 French Open. Osaka announced her pregnancy in January.
Several men’s tennis players have also acknowledged battles with depression, including Nick Kyrgio. In a social media post last year, the Australian player opened up about one of the “darkest periods” in his life.
The dark period Kyrgio was referred came around the time of the 2019 Australian Open.
Nick Kyrgios returns the ball to Philipp Kohlschreiber during their tennis match at the Roland Garros French Open on May 30, 2017, in Paris. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images)
He revealed that at one point he turned to self-harming.
“Most would assume I was doing OK mentally or enjoying my life … it was one of my darkest periods,” Kyrgios wrote in an Instagram post, which showed a picture of him at training. “If you look closely, on my right arm you can see my self harm. I was having suicidal thoughts and was literally struggling to get out of bed, let alone play in front of millions.”
Several athletes have blamed the increasing access of sports betting for the added scrutiny they are subjected to on social media.
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The famous clay-court Grand Slam begins on Sunday and runs through June 11 at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France.