While most of the time I blog about my insights and personal development in my Christian faith, from time to time I touch on other subjects that interest me. After yesterday’s display at the US Open Women’s Final in New York City, I gotta say something! If you saw it, you will understand why.
My thoughts are extensive and varied.
If you were to ask me who was the most successful female athlete ever, I would have to say Serena Williams. She has done it her way, and done it well. I’m not saying I like her or everything about her. If she wasn’t edgy and brash, she wouldn’t have 23 Grand Slam titles to her name. You have to really love to battle and fight and dig deep in the dirt to have such an achievement. She has been doing it across decades. Overall, I would say she is a great ambassador for sports.
It seems as a rule, whenever she steps on court, she brings a drama with her. From one stage to the next, the drama is different. In 1998, she omitted shaking the hand of her winning opponent at the end of the match calling it an oversight. She has had frequent racket smashes in her career. So what? She has had meltdowns before, some in Grand Slam finals. She has had weird behavior in some matches too, like suddenly becoming dizzy and unbalanced and unable to toss a ball straight up for a serve. In 2008 she missed some tournaments because of mysterious dental surgery there is no record of.
She has had misfortune, too, at other US Open as far back as 2004 when officiating during the tournament was so bad during her match that the umpire was removed for the duration of the tournament. You might think it is out of hand or highly delusional for Serena to have asked umpire Carlos Ramos for an apology during yesterday’s US Open final. But I tell you, after the bad umpiring during the 2004 match, the umpire had to give Williams an apology and changes in the challenging system in tennis were implemented after this match.
Her US Open horrors continued in 2009 during a semi-final match against Kim Clijsters. She was issued a warning for a racket smash, going on to commit a double-fault which she protested, threatening the line judge. For this behavior, she was fined and put on probation. I remember this match vividly, as it was one of the few times I went on to root against her!
After a pulmonary embolism in 2011, sports analysts considered her career over. Again in 2014, sports commentators said she was finished. Yet there she was in the 2018 US Open Women’s final after leaving the tour temporarily to give birth and nourish her baby. Ten months after her departure, we found her in the Wimbledon 2018 Women’s final, though the sporting world said she would never make a comeback.
I find this remarkable. Some critics would say she returned too soon. But to come back so quickly and rise to the top is extraordinary.
Watching the 2018 US Open Women’s final, from the start Williams was tense, not moving well, and not serving well. It seemed to be one match too many for the new mother.
Her legs looked heavy. After her first rally, it looked a struggle to breathe. She wasn’t moving well. I knew disaster was on its way.
Osaka played solid and was undaunted by the occasion.
In the second set, after dropping the first, Williams received a warning because her coach was coaching. Not allowed in Grand Slam finals. Did she see his hand gestures? It appeared so, as she went on to bring Osaka to the net, winning nearly every point with this strategy. Osaka was broken on her serve, mentally stressed, and Serena backed up her break by holding serve, using this same strategy.
It seemed we finally had a match on our hands, until Serena lost a game and smashed her racket, receiving another warning and a point violation. During this time, Serena continued to berate umpire Carlos Ramos. She was upset that he accused her of cheating, pointing her long finger as pointed as it could get at him time and again, at one occasion telling him she would rather lose than cheat.
If her words weren’t true, you wouldn’t have known it. It seemed no sooner than she had the strategy to win, she suddenly stopped. Williams ceased bringing Osaka to the net. Was this deliberate? Did she shoot down this strategy because she wouldn’t want to be called a poor sport after the match?
As the set continued, Williams couldn’t let the cheating accusation go. Her fury grew fierce and she continued to banter Ramos, calling him a thief, asking for the referees and an apology. No action was taken, except she went on to receive a game violation. In all my years of watching tennis, I have never seen such a thing. Ever. Especially in a Grand Slam final.
Bad boys of old, famed for their badness on court, McEnroe, Nalbandian, Hewitt, Roddick, Murray, and most presently, Kyrgios, didn’t face such consequences. In fact, they have gotten away with much superior abuse, like swearing. Kyrgios did this, for example, just a couple of matches back in this US Open. What was the umpire’s response? He got down from the chair and gave the man a pep talk!
Williams, as we all know, went on to lose her head, the set and the championship. The crowd booed often, even at the awards ceremony. Her opponent, Osaka, won in a bitter contest, not making it a very enjoyable crowning achievement. It even looked like the baton was being handed to Osaka at the start of the match. She may well be the one to watch in women’s tennis, if she can stay consistent.
Williams’ temper baked, and at one point she said to the referees who didn’t seem competent in the situation, “This wouldn’t happen if I was a man!” Men don’t get treated like that in tennis.
I think she is right.
While Ramos was in line with issuing her a warning and eventually a point violation, this warning for coaching was an inconsistent call. It has gone on all tournament long on all sides, even those of Osaka, even in the final. I don’t like to see such inconsistencies.
The game violation, too, was inconsistent, and too bad for Williams. She had the strategy, and she knows it. If she had kept bringing her opponent to the net, and kept her head and her serve together, she would be holding her 24th trophy today. I hope she stays in the game long enough to win it! Even Federer calls her the greatest tennis champion of all time.
But as they say, “It’s a man’s world.”
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…