It’s always the same ain’t it? As soon as any sports star gets caught acting a bit dodgy their first reaction is to become the victim, look for sympathy, blame something or something else, and in so doing deflect their conscious breaking of the rules or their unacceptable behaviour. We’ve seen it in professional cycling, where apparently ninety-nine per cent of the world’s asthmatics ply their trade. We’ve seen it at every Olympic Games since God knows when. We’ve seen in football, Ice Hockey …oh and don’t you just know it, we’ve seen it women’s professional tennis. Anybody for Maria Sharapova?
In the wake of the litany of exposed examples of cheating, the excuses and the apologists for it bring up the rear like a caravan hitched to an SUV. Have you noticed, in the wake of Serena William’s tennis meltdown, the reams of articles from the activist sisterhood bemoaning everything women have had to endure since we all roamed the earth with Dinosaurs? Not one of them calls William’s behaviour into question because she obviously cannot be blamed for it. Even a cartoonist has been labelled a racist and a sexist for caricaturing William’s meltdown.
Unfortunately, Serena Williams is merely one more in the long line of elite sportspersons to whom normal rules don’t apply and who consider the game somehow owes them. Rules are for the lower seeds, the plebs. Rules don’t apply to the greats. Umpires bow to them not the other way around. And so she was never going to disappoint when push came to match point. Everything from the smashing of her racket like a spoiled two year old who couldn’t have the last piece of candy, to her verbal abuse of an umpire and, the catalyst in the whole sorry episode, the flagrant abuse of the rules as she, as even her own coach subsequently admitted, was being coached from the side-lines.
None of it of course is the multi-millionaires’ fault at all. It’s all because she is black, it’s because she came from a terribly poor upbringing, it’s her weight issues, it’s down to her almost dying during childbirth and it’s because she has fought racism and sexism all her life and is a life- long feminist, which might come as a bit of a surprise to the female line judge whom Williams, during the 2009 US Open final, threatened to ‘shove the tennis ball down her f*****g throat.’ Nice.
It has nothing to do with rule books. Setting examples, taking the good decisions, of which she’s had more than a few, with the bad. She’s a great champion but she’s not and should never allowed to be bigger than the game.
Her protest that the umpire’s decision to deduct her a point and then a game was sexist is a new twist on the usual plethora of ‘ it wasn’t me Gov’ lame excuses. And the fact that some in the men’s game have gotten away with abusing the umpire is down to poor umpiring. If the umpire doesn’t have the balls, excuse the pun, to act against such behaviour ,no matter who it is, then he or she shouldn’t be in the chair in the first place. There’s nothing wrong with rules and if there is then the WPTA should change them, and being unable to read isn’t an excuse either.
Williams will be remembered as a great player and rightly so, but I suspect that she will forever privately regret her behaviour in that final which for me has besmirched her legacy. No umpire or referee in any sport is beyond error but the truly great champions, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, treat victory and defeat as the same imposter. In Serena’s case IF …only.
9th September 2018.