Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Fallout

by Savannah

At the Beach July 2015 photo a9e54d97-621b-49bb-8dda-9ae7feab7238_zpsgnntp3l3.jpg
Serena Williams Instagram July 17 2015

There's a reason I'm starting with this picture posted on Serena Williams Instagram and Facebook. It's a serene enough picture showing her sitting on a white sand beach staring out at the ocean. What is she thinking? That after a lot of tennis she's sitting on the beach taking in the relaxing ocean view? That for however long she's there she's giving herself a much needed mental break before the start of the US summer hard court season? Probably a little of both honestly.

Still, when I saw this picture it wasn't the calm scene or the beauty of the white sand that struck me it was her pose. There are lots of pictures of Serena on the beach and/or in the water striking various poses so what's the big deal about this image?

Keep in mind the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. At no point did I call Serena up and ask her "did you mean to say..." about this image that has been circulated around the world. And be sure that she didn't call me to share.

That said this post is called about what has happened in tennis after Wimbledon, in some cases before the tournament had ended.

Let's be honest. This was a dull tournament. There were some good matches but mostly things broke the way the script was written - in other words how the draws planned them to. Yes you can quibble about the outcome of the men's draw but there is no doubt a different outcome was desired for the women's draw.

Eyebrows were raised when something that hadn't happened in a major for a long time was drawn up - Venus Williams was drawn to face her sister. As I said before I don't like to see them play each other, never have, but I have this bad habit of asking "Why?" It's gotten me into trouble more then once but it hasn't stopped me from asking the question when something unusual happens. This possibility made me ask why.

Then there was the low key media campaign about what would happen if Venus won? Some clown from ESPN raised the old canard about Richard deciding who would win their head to head matches. Hand in hand with this speculation came talk of Maria Sharapova win Wimbledon. And the light bulb went off. There were certain interests who were hoping, praying even, that Venus would defeat her sister making the possibility of Sharapoa facing Serena in the semi finals with the usual outcome of their matches the last 11 years.

It didn't work out that way though and Serena won over her sister in the fourth round,Victoria Azarenka in the quarter final and yes Maria Sharapova in the semi finals.

What happened next was something that in retrospect still takes my breath away in the sheer audacity of it as it unfolded.

Any serious tennis fan knows that there are "trolls" who all come out and in sometimes the same language spout the same poison. Maybe a word or two gets changed but they're all saying the same thing. This time it started with seemingly random posting about Serena's body type and whether her hard won fitness was natural, the result of hours working to build up her endurance at 33 years of age, or if illegal substances were involved in scupting her body.

This nasty little argument started when Justine Henin was playing and will say now as I said then that there is a clear sign when a woman is using illicit substances, especially steroids. Her breasts shrink and almost disappear.
I'll give you a moment to compose yourself and climb back onto whatever you were sitting on and wipe the tears from your eyes. The physical evidence just isn't there to support that assertion. When it was there it was ignored.

There was more. In a much reviled article in the NY Times by a writer it says is a freelancer the assertion is made that most female tennis players don't want to be built like Serena with one coach going so far as to say his charge took pride in being the "snallest" read least fit, female tennis player. During this entire article not one thing is said about Australian player Samantha Stosur who has scuptured her body along the lines of a body builder. What most readers took away from the article is that other players, including Sharapova, who says she never lifts more than a five pound weight, don't want to sacrifice their femininity for fitness. Talk about rolling your eyes. I guess no one thought about these comments playing right into the narrative many ATP players spout when asked about women's tennis. What narrative? They're not fit. They're not mentally tough. They have no endurance.

I haven't forgotten the Tweets asking if a woman serving 125 mph is "normal" citing no names of course. So what does Serena do? Win the whole damn thing and show up at the Champions Dinner looking like this flaunting the very assets that some implied made her unfeminine.

La Belle photo 7ee963fc-ae87-48e4-b578-2367c2d52e0b_zpsr9fpbbx7.jpg

So back to the picture I opened this post with. Some folks think that when someone has been slandered the way Serena has that she will go off and say or do something that proves what they don't dare say about her publicly instead relying on these snide remarks and attempts at character assassination. What is she saying? You be the judge.

More Fallout

So there's this argument going on in men's tennis about the need for more "character" and less PC behavior in the men's ranks. Forget we're living in one of the best era's ever for men's tennis in terms of the quality of the tennis and behavior wise. We need more men willing to insult umpires and linespeople (not forgetting ball kids and fans), who show that they've got tempers and are not afraid to show them to any and everyone.

That said I'm sure Tennis Australia (TA) must've been thrilled to find this photo in their emails the other day.

Tomic Mug Shot photo 98065fe5-3414-45dd-b00e-8c92397f768a_zpsddgft8sl.jpg
via TMZ

I mean who wouldn't want to see a man you've invested millions in making sports headlines for getting himself arrested for a bs charge in Miami. I can see the PR now. Come see Bernard Tomic when he's not a drunken idiot at the "Blah" tournament. I know I'd run out and buy a ticket.

Then there's the other young Australian who is making a name for himself. I've written about him and have nothing more to say except that if he is not reined in by TA. Then again there's that character thing. People will pay to see hooligans right?


Fred66 said...

Well, we'll have to agree to disagree about rigged draws at tourneys. At this point I think everyone agrees that Serena is pretty much holding up women's tennis by herself, and that her quest to equal if not surpass Graf's GS record is driving the interest in women's tennis this year. Serously Savannah do you think Sharapova winning W'don would have been a bigger or better story than Serena reaching her Serena Slam? The media and most of the public were cheering Serena on. Now I have to say this too; the hate and slander directed toward Serena from a hardcore of biggots is going to get much worse as she closes in on Steffi's record. Black succes is tolerated as long as is doesn't equal or surpass white success that much we know. How Serena is handling this negativity has only made me respect and admire her all the more. I would have been bitter and hateful by now, she just keeps on winning and doing her own things. I only hope she doesn't retire once she's surpassed Steffi. That would leave the WTA in a hole they could not recover from for a long time.

Savannah said...

Hi Fred!

I'm used to people not agreeing with me re the draws but when you see the same two men getting the same draws over and over and over something is wrong. There was nothing difficult about either man's draw. Since Gasquet crumbles under pressure and even though Murray had a relatively soft way it was always going to be the two men who met in the Final.

As for Serena you're spot on. Yes it would've been less exciting for true fans of the sport if Serena had somehow not won the whole thing but never overlook the influence of the agents in how stories are spun. The nastiness and viciousness of the slurs thrown at Serena by somewhat official sources of tennis news were amazing.

I think Serena will hold on until the Olympics. After that I think we'll see her retire. Then the WTA will fall into that hole you so rightly predict it will. Slamless #1 players, players with no idea how to think their way through a match, that's just the tip of the iceberg as to what's coming.

I think Pova will stay on post Serena though.

Rex Banner said...

@Fred66 I am not sure what part of the world you are from, but I can assure you that in the UK the media and most of the public were not 'cheering Serena on'.

Whenever Federer was mentioned there was respect and admiration for his skill and achievements at Wimbledon. Conversely, whenever Serena's name was mentioned, debate was fixated on 'how to beat her, people she had lost to and Sharapova's victory 11yrs ago.

The lack of respect for Serena was illustrated in the Watson match and the tepid response from the crowd at 'game, set and match' in the final.

I will await the usual justification i.e. Serena was playing the home town girl and the crowd in the final did not know whether the match was over or not. Sorry I am not buying it!

I agree with Savannah, Wimbledon draws are rigged. Sharapova always gets a cake walk to the semi's, whereas Serena has to go through murderer's row.

Wimbledon made it clear who they wanted to win when they uploaded highlights of Sharapova's 2004 win, on the very day Serena won the competition for the 6th time.

Savannah said...

Thanks for your post Rex.

Your final sentence about Wimbledon posting Sharapova highlights underscores the bias of the AELTC. They were hoping for a miracle from both Watson and Venus. It didn't happen.

I maintain that the attack on Serena after her historic win is the most underhanded and vicious I've ever seen in women's tennis.

Karen Williams said...

There is conspiracy and then there are facts. There is no doubt that the UK public does not like Serena. Frankly she represents something that is anathema to British players. They have no idea how to win. They upset the home town favourite and the player for whom they were rooting because she is charming and cute and that is personification of what tennis likes. They want cute blondes and brunettes. They were not even that enthused about Kvitova's win a few years ago. They probably were happy that the screaming one did not win but I have learned a long time ago not to pay too much attention to the British media. After all they are the ones who liken women's tennis to an afterthought.

That being said whenever it comes to coverage of certain slams you need only look at which company is tasked with promoting it. In this case the AELTC is represented by IMG. It is the reason why Sharapova's lone win comes at the expense of a now 6 time champion. It is the reason why she is allowed to open up a candy shop on the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon. Not even Federer as much as he is loved has been allowed such leeway.

It does not matter whether or not the Brits were enthused that she won. At the end of the day Serena is winning where it matters most, and that is on the networks. The overnight ratings for every single Grand Slam final that Serena has played this year has surpassed the men's except for the Wimbledon final and this was due to the Federer effect which always moves the needle. Tennis needs ratings as high as the ones that Serena and Federer bring. If the ratings are not up, then sponsors will not pay for coverage of the event and you and I will pay so much more for content.

I know most tennis fans don't look at the big picture but we need to do so because if we don't we will find ourselves unable to watch our favourite sport. There is a reason why tennis is no longer on network TV in the US and most other countries.

MJ said...

Somehow I missed the story last week about an editor from the Atlantic tweeting about Serena doping. I hope she SUES his ass.

Savannah said...

That editor's name is David Frum.

Here's the story as The Grio published it.

"David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, suggested Sunday that Serena Williams may be on steroids and the media is flat out ignoring it.

Frum delivered his ‘theory’ in a series of tweets he then promptly deleted.

Frum, who is now the senior editor at The Atlantic, said his tweets were actually a “private Twitter conversation with a friend,” and not meant for “public domain.”"

Yeah right.

He got his ass handed to him by TennisTwitter AND BlackTwitter before he posted that crap about a private conversation.

To see some of the responses here is the link to the The Grio article:

Savannah said...

Karen I'm not ignoring your response. It's just so perfect it needs no response.

The assault on Serena's femaleness continues unabated and all fans of Serena, hell, fans of women's sports period, need to be vigilant.

Karen Williams said...

Savannah, yes they need to be vigilant and defend Serena but some of the defences are beginning to look like folks trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. I am all for defending against sexism, homophobia etc., but the truth of the matter is that Serena is getting lost in the conversation. It is not today since this has been going on. It has been going on for years fueled by the same media, bloggers and fans who write the same narrative around Serena. Is it racism? I don't know but I do know that for years the adjectives used to describe her game made me cringe and pissed me the hell off.

I said to a friend of mine recently that Serena is trying for something that has not been done by either man or woman in a very long time. It is remarkable that all of a sudden the allegations of doping and her body are at the forefront of conversations. Funny how I am not seeing any mention of doping for golf's Jordan Speith. I don't follow golf much but where was this guy for the last few years and why are there no allegations of doping surrounding him as there was against Tiger and as there is now around Serena?

Savannah said...

There are many people of color, especially women of color, who only watch tennis when Serena is playing. I think that's why all of a sudden her defenders were not part of Tennis Twitter. Many of the people reacting are part of my political time line and are very, very sensitive to the issues surrounding body image/shaming and women of color. My sister only asks me when Serena is playing. Otherwise she could care less about tennis. I think that's where all the "outsiders" come in.

There is still a discussion going on on tennis fan sites, the big one that's dedicated to women's tennis, and quality sites as well about how Pova is better because she gets more endorsements and brings fans to tennis. None of that has been proven but it's a strong belief among fans especially younger fans. Has her candy brought more fans to tennis? A lot of her ads are in Asia but outside of Japan which has a tennis culture (Prince of Tennis) all you see are empty stadiums. So again where are the fans she's brought to the sport? It's this kind of thing that has to be fought against. It's insidious and many who say it profess that they are not being racist. It's a hard road.

Chew on this. Murray has visibly bulked up. He even has a great ass now. Has any comment been made about this by tennis "journalists". Not a peep. But when Rafa was dominating insinuations about doping were not even whispers. A friend of mine and I were watching Rafa on the practice court at the US Open a couple of years ago and I pointed Rafa out to her. "He's so skinny!" were her first words. She went on to say he was not what she expected after all the talk in the tennis media.

There is a reason Serena's Army has to lead with both feet. Not all of it is pretty (the anti PMou brigade comes to mind) but it has to be done. Otherwise they'll think no one is hip to their game.