Letters & Opinion

The Game That Stunned Pundits

Serena Williams
By Peter Josie
By Peter Josie

THE hype preceding this year’s US tennis Open was unusual. True, such promotions had become a part of international sporting events and the public had grown accustomed to it. Still, the US Open may have been the most anticipated international tennis tournament in recent times. It was the last ‘grand slam’ for the calendar year and it was to be played at the largest tennis stadium in the world.

Add to this the usual big-name suspects – Federer, Murray, Nadal, and Djokovic; and in women’s – the William sisters, Vinci, Panetta and the tension becomes palpable. The anticipation and excitement was accentuated by the desire of tennis lovers and pundits alike, to witness history. Tickets for the women’s semi-final and final matches were sold out weeks before the tournament served-off, and before tickets for the men’s finals. That had not happened before. The men’s game had previously dominated, attracting larger crowds.

The reason for the turn can be put down to one player – Serena Williams, who was on the cusp of tennis history. Serena has played excellent tennis this year and had won the Australia open (January), the French open (March), Wimbledon (June), and was on her way to a fourth title at the US Open. Winning a fourth title in one calendar year would have placed her among the gods of tennis.

In the long history of tennis, four grand slam wins in one calendar year had been achieved only three times. American tennis enthusiasts and aficionados from the wider world expected Serena to achieve her fourth calendar ‘slam’ in New York. When she easily brushed aside her first two opponents many believed that only Venus, her sister, stood in her way. Then when she later overcame Venus, many thought that the rest was a mere formality and they would be witnesses to tennis history.

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But life, fate, God, call it what you may, had scripted a far different story. The brutal truth is that the twists and turns of life are often far beyond human comprehension. Yes, one has to define a goal, prepare properly, and stay riveted on the prize. In this sense a fourth calendar slam for Serena would have been perfectly justified. She has put in more than the prescribed ten-thousand hours of practice. She has shaped her body and her mind to achieve tennis greatness. She has been as focused as a laser beam. But, the story twists and gets tricky – after the ‘but.’

Even as millions watched it unfold, few could believe what they had seen. Few, if any, at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, New York expected Roberta Vinci to outplay Serena. But she did! Tennis experts had given Roberta Vinci of Italy, a snowball chance in hell against Serena. But the snowball triumphed in the fire. Sporting contests are full of such surprises. Roberta Vinci was ranked at number 43 and had never before beaten Serena. Serena was number one. In layman’s language it meant that Roberta had to climb 42 places and play her best tennis to win their semi-final match-up.

But tennis, as in the more popular sport of football, is not as logical or predictable as mathematics. For example, if team ‘A’ beats team ‘B’ two goals to nil, and team ‘B’ beats team ‘C’ one goal to nil, then team ‘A’ plays team ‘C’ the result ought to be a three-nil victory for team ‘A’. That’s not how things work out in the real world of football. Tennis is no different. Few at the Ashe stadium seemed to have remembered that at the start of the Serena vs. Roberta game.

Serena Williams
Serena Williams

Before the match one commentator opined that only Serena could beat Serena, in the remaining two matches – the semi-final and final. The pundits had predicted that Serena would stroll into tennis history. But, fate, (God?) is not always easily anticipated. Life does not always proceed in one smooth line, as planned.

Those who believe are aware that a day begins the night before. On the night before her semi-final match against Roberta, it rained and the match had to be postponed to the following day. The interlude seemed to have turned everything around for Serena. Her body chemistry and mind-set may have gone into another dimension, permitting her to feel the trophy in her hands. She may have lost focus and rhythm as a result. Her mind may have rebelled, refusing to accept it would have to wait another 48 hours for that prized trophy.

Whatever it was, no one could tell for certain. Some reckless tongues went so far to suggest that she had gone out with her boyfriend the night before and that affected her performance against Roberta. It was alleged that her coach had commented that Serena looked different when she stepped out of her vehicle that afternoon before the match.

Cheap idle talk must have been brushed aside after Serena breezed through the first set. Thereafter, a switch seemed to have gone off in Serena. Roberta began slowly and cautiously, to ascend. During the second and third sets, unforced errors on which Serena often depends to overcome her opponents were not as forthcoming. Roberta sensing that the tables were turning made few un-forced errors. Serena may have even started to doubt herself. And doubt is the enemy of every sportsman and woman.

The match ended two-to-one in Roberta Vinci’s favour. Serena Williams had lost! She had been denied a historic fourth grand slam title in the same calendar year. Of course that title would have raised her personal profile considerably. It would have provided another solid sporting icon for young black Americans to copy. It would have been a great story. Instead, it was the game which stunned tennis pundits…and the sporting world.

The story which emerged was unpredictable. Like a good spy novel it waited until the very end to reveal guilt. Two young Italian women ranked at 29 and 43, from the same region of Italy where they first played each other at age nine, and became close friends, were about to make tennis history. They had played doubles together but had never opposed each other in a grand slam. Neither had won a tennis grand slam. That story was to change at the New York open.

A ‘rags to riches’ is more likely to warm the human heart and teach us to believe more in ourselves and in hard work, training and focus. The young Rick Wayne is a good example in body building and journalism. Focusing on Serena, we may have overlooked the hard work of Claudia Panetta. A Serena win may have denied us the opportunity to see how hard and long, Roberta and others like her have worked. The reality is there is hardly any difference between the top hundred in pro-tennis. Anyone who puts in more than the mandatory ten-thousand hours, and stays focused will one day surprise the pundits whatever his/her dream, to pursue – as Rick Wayne has done. He too, is a game that surprised pundits!

9 Comments

  1. In the streets of NY there are numerous illegal numbers gambling operators. The growth of this underground ops is staggering given the easy access to legal state sponsored numbers / lottery ops.
    So given this premise how likely is the following conspiracy theory:
    “Hey “Lucky” our national gal is # 43 lets do a 43: 1 odds betting bonanza”
    “and we can throw in a bonus prize of a medit cruise from Italy to the french and Spanish rivierras for those betting $1000 or more against Serena and win.
    “With global ops set to churn in nearly a Billion in both legal and illegal bet sales, we can offer the sweet kid via her charming boy lover a $5 million in off shore accounts to perform a smooth dive in losing the game.”
    “We are lucky it is not the soulful Venus sister we had to consider. This younger one is like generation Z; they want everything from A to Z NOW. And we are so blessed that we can work our Adam end to get through to Eve-this time around
    “you are so right loose-c- fur”

    1. CARDINAL RICHELIEU, this possibility of a Mafia payoff just never crossed my mind, but somehow it seem to make a lot of sense in explaining this mysterious loss to this Italian woman ‘Vincini’.

      You know, Josie can actually writes an objective article when he is not involved with the alchemy of transforming the impostors Allen and his abbetter Michael Chastanet, into statesmen.

  2. “The brutal truth is that the twists and turns of life are often far beyond human comprehension….Life does not always proceed in one smooth line, as planned….”
    —————————————————————————————————————————
    Peter, you are living proof of those words.

  3. Roger, my defense is not in response to your coy dismissal of the possibility of “behind the scenes tampering;
    rather it is sweated out in respect of the huge energy that goes into SOM’s writing product.
    “So, I am an African American girl born in one of the top -Shogun dominated Do or Die urban regions of continental USA.
    Against all the real and stereotypical odds, my dad did all that he could-and then some- to prepare me for international competition. Mind you,Tennis was probably more popular in St. Lucia than my urban neighborhood (population sample equal).
    Too rise in state, regional and national rankings is a lifetime feat in of itself.
    But , I eclipsed all these hurdles at a very robust youthful age.
    Imagine being a star at Wimbledon-on more than a few occasions- plus the French & Aussie Opens to boot.
    But I did not stop to savor glory . I pushed and developed my body – beyond the limits of champion females of the past; to take on the brutal pace and rigor of the international circuit.
    Watch out for my version of Billy Jean takes on a male champion- duel. I dream of a “Thrilla in Manilla” world wide box office to retire -properly.
    – My sport like most “fast’ sports retire their champions at a young age. This is not golf!!
    -Think of the high end expenses of routine physical therapy rehabilitation, psychological counseling, portfolio managers, all sorts of managers for ad /promotion deals.
    The pain and punishment exerted on my body and mind to be the best, will come screaming back in post retirement. Expensive holistic spa treatments are a daily fact of life.
    -Therefore, a poor girl from deep urban California is not ever going back to the bewilderment of survival.
    Fact is I must also pay for my future upscale lifestyle -while the iron is hot!
    -Trophies on a wall cannot pay the rising exorbitant rehabilitation / recuperation medical bills in my EARLY retirement.
    – This is the land of milk and honey where ONLY $$$$$$$$ talks and is listened to. Yes darling, it definitely makes my mare fly while your stallion eats hay and sometimes oats in a crowded stall.
    -Daddy talked a lot about his musical idols Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes and how both went FINANCIALLY BANKRUPT even while they were at the top of their game. He tearfully reminded us of how unforgiving capitalist systems work.
    – I learned in my neck of urbania that it’s all about the money honey.
    -You cannot deny that like Ali I backhand slammed a wide new dimension along with legions of new fans to this ‘used to be sedate’ sport.
    – So what if I take a little insurance for my future medical premiums. It is a tuppence hapney (see I championed Wimbledon so often, I sound like an East End Cockney) compared to the international TV $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ that I generate for the promoters.
    Finally, there are some offers that are healthier to comply with -than abstain.
    Like my favorite English flirt (007) sang ‘Live & Let Die’ “

  4. Serena Williams is widely considered the greatest woman tennis player ever. But all too often, instead of being celebrated, she’s targeted with outrageous racist and sexist comments. This bigotry has tarnished nearly every victory, magazine cover, and interview of her entire incredible career.

    For example, in the moments surrounding her win at the French Open in June 2015, Williams was compared to an animal, likened to a man, and deemed frightening and horrifyingly unattractive. One Twitter user wrote that Williams “looks like a gorilla, and sounds like a gorilla when she grunts while hitting the ball. In conclusion, she is a gorilla.” And another described her as “so unbelievably dominant … and manly.”

  5. What people who tried to insist that these were merely innocent, individual assessments of Williams’s looks didn’t understand was that none of this was new, and none of it was random.

    At the 2001 BNP Paribas Open tournament in Indian Wells, California, Serena and Venus Williams were booed by fans who accused them of match fixing when Venus withdrew from a scheduled semifinal match. And then, according to the Williams family, things got worse:

    “When Venus and I were walking down the stairs to our seats, people kept calling me ‘nigger,” her father and coach Richard Williams told USA Today at the time. One man, he said, threatened, “‘I wish it was ’75; we’d skin you alive.'”

    Serena boycotted the event for more than a decade, only returning this year.

    But the most recent commentary is a reminder that that didn’t mark an end to the racialized, sexualized, dehumanizing comments about her. It’s nearly impossible to imagine these comments being made about any of her peers; they’re a genre unto themselves, offering a case study on how biases make their way into media coverage. As James McKay and Helen Johnson write in a 2008 article published in Social Identities, about what they called the “pornographic eroticism and sexual grotesquerie in representations of African American sportswomen,” even so-called complimentary commentary about Williams’s athleticism is often grounded in stereotypes about black people (animalistic and aggressive) and black women specifically (masculine, unattractive, and overly sexual at once).

  6. David Leonard, chair of the department of critical culture, gender, and race studies at Washington State University, compiled the following tweets, which he recorded after Williams won her fifth Wimbledon title in 2012, in a post for his personal blog arguing that she faced racist treatment from the media and fans alike:

    > Today a giant gorilla escaped the zoo and won the womens title at Wimbledon… oh that was Serena Williams? My mistake.

    > Serena Williams is a gorilla

    > Watching tennis and listening to dad talk about how Serena Williams looks like gorilla from the mist

    > I don’t see how in the hell men find Serena Williams attractive?! She looks like a male gorilla in a dress, just saying!

    > You might as well just bang a gorilla if you’re going to bang Serena Williams

    > Earlier this week I said that all female tennis players were good looking. I was clearly mistaken: The Gorilla aka Serena Williams.

    > Serena williams looks like a gorilla

    > Serena Williams is half man, half gorilla! I’m sure of it.

    > Serena Williams look like a man with tits, its only when she wears weave she looks female tbh, what a HENCH BOLD GORILLA!

    > Serena Williams is a gorilla in a skirt playing tennis #Wimbledon

    > My god Serena Williams is ugly! She’s built like a silver backed gorilla

    “The racism raining down on Serena’s victory parade highlights the nature of white supremacy. … her career has been one marred by the politics of hate, the politics of racism and sexism,” Leonard wrote.

    The racism that underlies the characterizations of her as hypersexual, aggressive, and animalistic also means that when she dares to express frustration, she’s stamped with the infamous “angry black woman” stereotype.

    It’s as bogus as the rest of the labels she’s endured, but given the slights against her over the years, she has every right to be outraged.

  7. TThese huge bulging eyesThanks SOM , continue to be Phenomenal with your literary skills.
    Yes sir the double entendre evoked by the Mandigo of lave plantations lives on.
    “why Victoria you are quite moist and your nipple are saluting me, and your pupils ..what gives”
    It was your Mandigo savage. He spilled some of Jemim;s fine Mint Julep as he towered over me to fill my glass , staring at my open plunging neckline bodice. Was I evers so scared of dem huge bulging eyes”
    TRUTH The typically bored plantation owner wife had a love hate paradoxical daily existence.
    She envied her husband’s liberty to take an African as belly warmer even while pulsating at all erogenous zones because of the magnificent spectacle of a full blooded Mandingo -and loving the wet thoughts of her own taboo desires.
    Economic fences are staked long before the racist fences go up as trrpwire quick sand, moats of discontent etc., that defend the high advantages of privileged economic classes.
    What insult is thrown at Serena is also borne on the disbelief that this level of skill and POWER
    is embodied n a person of color.
    Ali had atremendous communication advantage over Serena:
    First he effectively separated himself from the decadent materialism of ordinary existence.
    Secondly, who and whatever negatives were hurled at him he used his one man sport as a powerful global podium to repudiate the haters.
    Thirdly, he had a magnificent voice and body language that
    could range from tickling a baby to laughter to the most intimidating snarl that placed the top fighters on guard.
    Unlike Serena it was his mind set and power that was attacked. The current trashycultural interests of our decadent societies fail to rise above the panty line; consequently the sexual/animalistic insults reflective mass regression to the ID-iotic mind
    If viagra dependent (pun intended) Peter can get HOT over the glistening sweatiness of Serenas backhand swing, then I am an errupting Mount Fuji in the dead of Winter.
    Srena darling TAKE ALL the MoNEY and run -create thy own Eden for the twilight years.
    Thanks again SOM for the synergy to push my writing energy.

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