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.
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.
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.
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?