Can we give Serena Williams a little love? If you are an ESPN junkie, as I am, coverage over the past few days would lead one to believe that Serena had been financing a dog fighting ring, or running a drug operation, or using enhanced interrogation techniques against orphans and widows.
If any of you good people watched her semi-final match in the US Open, then you saw what the rest of the tennis world saw. During a critical point at the end of the match, a line judge called a foot fault against Serena. Not only is a foot fault NEVER called, but Serena didn’t even commit one. That horrible call—-the single worst I’ve seen in 30 years of watching tennis—put Serena a point away from defeat. So she blew her top. She lost her cool. She told the line judge that she wanted to “shove this ball down your f#$%ing throat.”
To be sure, Serena’s actions were over the top. But it’s the first time she’s thrown this kind of tantrum in 11 years of professional tennis, in a sport where infantile tantrums are the norm. Why exactly is the sports media blowing this incident out of proportion? Why is it receiving wall-to-wall coverage when Roger Federer’s misbehavior two days later has barely been mentioned? Why is she condemned as the second coming of Jeffrey Dahmer when John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were celebrated as “brash” for their bad boy antics?
Perhaps it was the sight of an enraged, 6 foot, heavily muscled, dark skinned sister from Compton, that set the tennis world on edge. This was not what Grand Slam officials envisioned when they decided to allow women to play professionally. Venus and Serena serve as hard as the men, and Serena could kick most of their asses. They have kept the lid on their “blackness” for their entire careers. And when they’ve been interested enough to practice, they have wiped the court with the competition. The tennis world has accepted them because, for the most part, they’ve been gracious winners. But Serena apparently violated her unwritten contract with professional tennis, by losing her temper and acting a fool. It’s okay for Martina Hingis or one of the petite country club girls to throw a tantrum, but Serena has to keep it in check.
Perhaps this is the jolt Serena and Venus need to re-focus their energies on tennis, and bring home some more Grand Slam trophies. And this time they can bring those trophies home to Compton, where they are still respected and revered.