It was tennis’ Mad Men moment.
The AMC drama won numerous awards for its portrayal of 1960s advertising agency culture, where women played second-class citizens to the boozed-up, alpha-male executives who controlled their lives.
Somewhere, up-and-coming Croatian tennis player Donna Vekic must feel a little like those women.
She has been placed at the centre of a storm through no fault of her own. She just happens to be dating Stanislas Wawrinka.
She is a female tennis player in a world where female tennis players, save for a couple, are still second-class citizens.
A world where sex appeal is more marketable than a serve. A world where Anna Kournikova still resonates in the mind of male fans more prominently than Lindsay Davenport.
Vekic is a completely passive victim in a narrative created by the too-large mouth of a boy aged just 20 – and going on 14.
“Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend,” Nick Kyrgios muttered on court. “Sorry to tell you that, mate.”
That his comment was so laden with misogyny should not surprise. He is a product of a generation where rap and hip-hop rule, music genres which traditionally rank rather low on the respect-for-women scale.
As a chubby child, Kyrgios sported a Wu-Tang Clan t-shirt. If you want an idea of the kind of ideas young Wu-Tang fans get exposed to, search for the lyrics to their track ‘Maria’.
Kyrgios’ slight, sledge, barb, directed at Stan Wawrinka was full of teenage irascibility.
He’d just lost a set. He was angry. He had information. He used it.
And in doing so he laid bare a secret, paying scant regard to the privacy of a friend and a young woman who is now at the mercy of the media machine.
Vekic is the primary victim in this whole sorry saga, with fellow Aussie tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis not far behind.
It’s easy to imagine a scene of teenage bravado as Kokkinakis imparted the information that he’d had intimate relations with Vekic.
But however the story was told, Kokkinakis had his trust broken.
And if the sledge has no basis in the truth, Vekic could launch legal proceedings against Kyrgios for defamation.
Tennis players grow up in public.
Certainly that has been the case for Kyrgios, who is struggling with the emotional demands of being a highly touted prospect in the internet age.
But think of Donna Vekic, whose only crime, it seems, is to be an attractive blonde tennis player who has had relationships – of whatever level of intensity – with other pros.
First there was the dubious article that appeared on the French Open website prior to Wawrinka’s first-round match this year.
And now this.
The world No.127, still trying to forge ahead with her own career, could do without the headlines, the glare and the stress.
If Kyrgios’ comment had been delivered in any other workplace, and overheard by management, he’d have been given the rest of the day to clear out his things.
Vekic has been either slandered, humiliated or both. Kokkinakis has had his confidence betrayed.
Kyrgios, meanwhile, whose on-court persona continues to become perilously unpredictable, skates headlong into the void.
At one stage he was a can’t-miss prospect. He’s still got all those skills, but may be too far gone in the court of public opinion to ever be revered in the way he could have been.
But this mess is of Kyrgios’ own making.
Donna Vekic finds herself in a mess she had absolutely no say in whatsoever.