For better and for worse, the 2009 U.S. Open will be unforgettable on the ladies’ side for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, there was an unprecedented number of top seeds who stumbled in the early rounds. Secondly, the wackiness of the weather on the last weekend. Thirdly, 2005 champ Kim Clijsters’ remarkable run to the finals after a two year absence from the sport. Fourthly, Caroline Wozniacki becoming the first Danish player to reach the finals at a major. Lastly and lamentably, for what can only be labeled as ‘Serena Gate’.
The incident- Improbable that anyone watching missed it. However, here’s a recap of the events which resulted in Serena Williams being defaulted, costing her the match. After dropping serve in the first set which led to Clijsters capturing it, Serena smashed her racket and was given a code violation warning. Later, Williams facing double break point, which were also match points, was called for a foot fault. This prompted a diatribe by Serena including the statement that she would “shove the f****** ball down [the line person's] throat”. So in accordance to the rules, the chair umpire awarded her a point penalty which left a bitter note since it was match point for Clijsters. Irrespective of the line person being right or wrong, Serena’s behavior was out of bounds.
Serena is not Venus, nor vice versa- Other than Kim, the person who deserves the most sympathy is Venus Williams because this circumstance may mark her career. Ever since their arrival on the tennis scene, these sisters have often been regarded as a singular entity. Their playing doubles at times does not help the matter. The peculiar part is that they are not even twins. At least if this were the case, it would be justified. Yet, people still view Bob and Mike Bryan as individuals. Sometimes, it’s forgotten that these siblings have divergent personalities. With that being said, it’s highly unlikely had the tables been reversed that Venus would have reacted in such a fashion. Therefore, in a small corner of Serena’s mind, she must be hoping that none of this stain sticks to her big sister’s tennis shoes.
Kids & Role Models-Whether parents like or not, many athletes have assumed the position of idols in their children’s eyes. Serena’s sorrowful outburst was certainly witnessed by tons of partisans. For mothers and fathers this is the perfect opportunity to reinforce to their offspring that this sort of behavior is not to be emulated. Moreover, that they should select tangible persons in their lives, their own parents, uncle Charlie or cousin Jane if their comportment is exemplary as their true heroes or heroines. Even John McEnroe, whom Serena cited as an idol at her press conference, known for his over the top conduct in his heydays stated he “could not defend the indefensible”. I suppose with age comes wisdom. Hopefully, Serena’s future possess the same pearl.
Arthur Ashe Must Be Rolling In His Grave-One should be grateful for the rain yesterday. After all, it meant that this spectacle was played out in front of fewer spectators. Yet, with the internet these days, it gets harder to do damage control. The fact that this scandal occurred at all is disquieting. More importantly, the reality that it took place in the arena named for such a beloved and gentle Black soul makes it border on the sacrilegious. In all fairness, surely that was far from Williams’ intention. Despite Serena saying she doesn’t live her life with regret, if she could push the do-over button, there would be no hesitation. This only goes to emphasize the magnitude of impulse control. There’s no questioning that Serena’s yin and yang were not in harmony last night.
Possible Fallout, Fines versus Suspension- Ironically, this fortnight, Serena has been promoting her newest book. Thus, Serena’s pocket may be the area to suffer the hugest hit from this scandal. One has to wonder how many copies will now sell and if those who purchased it might cue up for a refund. This year, Serena has earned over $3 million in prize money while her endorsement takes probably exceed that many folds. So, the conundrum is whether a monetary punishment will adequately underscore the gravity of what happened considering it is finite. Additionally, that kind of retribution will not leave a lasting hole in Serena’s coffers. Although some may feel that the following proposal is radical and extreme in light of Serena being a first time offender, it’s no less than what a parent would do. When a child does something egregious, he or she is usually deprived of a meaningful privilege. Therefore, keeping that in mind, it would be appropriate to suspend Serena. However, with the importance that she assigns to the majors, the most fitting chastisement would be forbidding her from defending her Australian Open title. Perhaps, then, the message will be spelled explicitly enough and will serve as a future deterrent.
In conclusion, to err is certainly human. But, recognizing and accepting one’s mistakes and their consequences are integral to one’s growth. In time, the public will forget and this will become a footnote in Serena’s career. Still, the greatest lesson that Serena can learn from this is that winning is not the only thing.