Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Serena Vs Justine Round III

by Savannah

Always listen to Richard Williams. After Serena's last match he said that Serena had some physical injuries that had not been discussed with others. I was going to wait until later to write about this match but after reading some online comments not only about the match but about Serena's rather bitchy post match presser I thought it might be better to write about what I saw last night earlier instead of later.

Let me start by saying I sprung for the big bucks (thank the gods I had the money available) and sat court side for the first time ever. Haruka and I sat separately due to a little too much excitement purchasing tickets (when it says there are three seats available and there are two of you it means start from the beginning Savannah and ask for two tickets) but not only the view is spectacular. Haruka was sittting right behind the family box that both the Williams family and the Nadal family used. I was on the other corner where I could look across and see the family box with ease. My view of the court was somewhat obstructed by the chair but that was a minor inconvenience. I could see everything happening on both sides of the court pretty well.

You could also see the nuances of the game that are lost on television. I don't think anyone in the stadium could deny that Serena wanted that match. It was also obvious from where I sat that she was not moving well. There were bursts of movement but then she'd go back to being almost stationary and try to control points with little or no lateral movement.

Justine Henin may not be likable but she is no dummy (or should I say Carlos is no dummy). It wasn't long before she was hitting and making shots Serena just watched zoom by. As it became more and more obvious that Serena does have some kind of physical issue - she reached for her knee and/ or thigh once or twice but would quickly move her hand away - Serena's frustration level grew. The mind knew what to do but still she stayed rooted to the baseline with only flashes of the player she is on display.

The crowd was very very pro Serena. I don't know if it's because Justine is about as lovable as a Gila Monster or that tennis fans have finally realized that it's Serena and Venus who bring the glitz and glamor as well as the game to women's tennis. When Serena would move, when she would hit the shots that you'd expect her to the crowd roared it's approval. My night was made when some suit sitting nearby screamed at the top of his lungs for Serena to dig deep. His girlfriend, much more casually dressed decided it was time to go buy food. He barely noticed her leaving.

There were other moments too. As it got later and later more of the BJK workers came and watched the tennis. It was interesting watching the ones who understood the game explaining it to their friends and coworkers.

One cop asked if there was a sudden death in tennis. At that point in Rafa's match no one saw the humor in his statement.

I did read some of Serena's interview. She was bitchy. But she had been outplayed and while others see her remarks as disparaging I see them a little differently.

If you try your best and don't succeed that's one thing. If you are unable to do what you want for whatever reason and your opponent gets the best of you it sends you over the edge. The frustrated woman I saw on court could in no way give an "I'm okay with my loss" interview.

It also amazes me how the same reporters who go after Serena with such ferocity never once ask about cup cake draws and other such matters when interviewing other players.

There are rumors floating around that Serena is pregnant. Yesterday USA showed her on the practice courts. She doesn't look pregnant to me, not with that flat stomach unless it's in the early stages. She does have some kind of physical issue though.

As for the crowd reaction to Justine I have to say it was civil but not warm. At one point everyone was cheering and trying to urge Serena on. Justine won the point to almost stony silence. The hostility of the crowd is what seemed to propel her. That is one way to handle it.

We got the 2:06a train to Penn Station which pulled into the stop empty which means it was there for the tennisheads who had stayed to watch Rafa's match. The conversation was loud but all tennis focused. There were three friends sitting together and one guy said he had been impressed with Justine. The other guy said that ever since the hand situation he would never, ever root for Justine and went into detail about it. I have to mention that no one in that conversation was of color.

I have to mention something else about the crowd. They like good tennis. If someone made a good shot or a good get they got cheered. Because the Djokovic match ran so late many fans had to leave, today is a work day after all, but for the most part the crowd was pro Serena and later pro Rafa. There was appreciation for Ferrer's play but the biggest cheers were for Rafa.

I doubt if we'll see Serena again until next year in Australia. Like Rafa I hope she takes time and gets the rest she needs.


MMT said...

New to the blog, but I have to say, I'm a little surprised at how easily you've let Serena off hook here.

First, her comments were beyond that of a frustrated player disappointed with her performance. To say that Henin was hitting "lucky" shots is not only ludicrous, but disingenous, because she's not exactly a joureyman who got a wild-card into the draw. She's the #1 player in the world.

And it's all well and good to believe that the result of the match entirely depends on your own play, but that just isn't true. This isn't golf where you're playing the course - there's someone on the other side of the net, and in this case, a pretty good player who outplayed Serena.

Finally, I'm not sure what's all this about easy draws, but if the Williams sisters want better draws then they should play more in between slams. If they choose to play less (as they are well within their rights to do) they must accept the consequences and play tougher opponents earlier in the tournament.

Nobody's out to get them - the draw is what it is and they must deal with it or raise their ranking by playing more. In any case it didn't bother Serena at the AO, or Venus at Wim, so what's all this about it now?

Savannah said...

Hi MMT. Welcome.

The bit about the draws is not related to either Venus or Serena per se. I'm not sure how closely you follow tennis but the entire women's draw has been the subject of outrage from the minute it came out.

The top half of the draw included not only Venus and Serena but Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Justine Henin, and anyone else who had beaten Maria Sharapova over the last year. The bottom of the draw contained Maria and the kiddie brigade. They threw in Sveta Kuznetsova and Anna Chakvetadze to try and make it look better. We all know what happened and we've moved on. Ironic isn't it that these are the two women who have made it out of the bottom of the draw.

There are times when all of us say things we regret. Serena usually turns the athlete off and presents her "serene" face to the public. That didn't happen this time. Frankly I'm tired of press people and some fans acting as if Serena being upset with herself more than anyone else is the end of the civilization as we know it. There wasn't nearly this heated a reaction to Maria last year when she told the press to take a flying leap when they dared to question her brown bottle and the banana.

We, the fans, should never see the melt downs of our idols. We did in this case. Instead of Serena being given the benefit of the doubt and her comments being put in the context in which they happened - right after what had to be a bitter loss - and questions about her fitness hitting her right off the bat - she's being portrayed as some kind of monster. She isn't. She's an athlete. I think everyone needs to take a step back from this.