I was at the Post Office when I heard that Serena Williams lost her match. It took a couple more hours for me to catch up to all the kerfuffle involved with the match.
Now that I’m caught up (thank you social media and ESPN On Demand!), all that I can say is, “Aww, Serena!”
Serena, you are a phenomenal woman and the best tennis player alive. Your successful performance this season, working your way up from the bottom of the ranks to a championship match, has been awesome to watch–but no surprise.
You MUST know that for every superfan that you have, you have three haters that don’t want to see you make it. And one out of those three haters is pretending to be a fan.
You MUST know that you’re held to a different standard than your male counterparts. Everybody who criticizes you for your “meltdowns” conveniently forgets that John McEnroe was renowned for his on-court hissyfits. Even Alize Cornet got a code violation for taking her shirt off during a heat break while several male players got to lay out on the court, stripped to the waist, and had water poured on them. And nobody said anything. We can do what “they” do, but we’re the ones who get called out for it.
No, it’s not fair. But that’s the way that the game has always been played.
I’m on your side, Serena. I saw the footage. You had every right to be upset at the umpire for going technicality-happy in a championship game. I don’t think that he would have done that to a male player under the same circumstances; he would have been too afraid to. You should also be upset at your coach for breaking the rules and coaching you from the sidelines. His stupid choice cost you. The umpire’s stupid penalties cost you (“verbal abuse”, really?). History, unfortunately, will record that your temper cost you. And I don’t think that’s fair OR true.
When Naomi Osaka made it to the championship match, saying “I want Serena”, I anticipated an epic match between two athletes who’d worked their tails off to get to that point. I was primed for a Clash of the Titans. When I found out how the match actually went, I was disappointed. No athlete wants to win or lose on a technicality; they want their blood, sweat, and tears to pay off on the field of play. After all that work, you didn’t want to lose the Grand Slam that way. And Naomi clearly did NOT want to win her first Grand Slam (against her idol!) that way.
Please, Serena, don’t ever forget again that the rules will always be different for you. Next time, take some deep breaths, count backwards, sing a hymn. Do whatever you need to do to keep your focus on the match. I know that it is hard to do the Obama thing when emotions are all over the place, but trust me: it pays to go high when they go low.
The outcome of the US Open has left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. I hope that it doesn’t last long.