REPORTING FROM THE LONDON OLYMPICS
LONDON, ENGLAND – The Queen of England was coming to Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years, and it was a special moment that Serena Williams opened up for. She was a little giddy and a lot respectful about the chance to curtsy for the Queen on Centre Court.
“I’m definitely going to work on it a little more,’’ Williams said. “I’m trying to tone down my wrist action. But my curtsy is really fun. It’s something that she’ll definitely never forget, if I ever get a chance to meet her.’’
That was two years ago, and when the big day came, Wimbledon officials placed Williams out on Court 2, where the Queen wouldn’t see her. Instead, Serena was on a court of the people, not a high-dollar show court. Williams never complained, but instead stayed after the match and signed autographs for kids who couldn’t normally see her.
So let’s be a little careful about how far we go with Williams’ little victory dance Saturday on Centre Court, in front of royalty, after winning the Olympic gold medal. She beat Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in maybe the greatest match of her career, and surely the most dominant week. The Great American Tennis Story, from Compton to Centre Court, had her own crowning moment.
And instead of a curtsy, she did a Crip Walk on Centre Court. It’s a hip-hop street dance move, done by gang members over dead bodies. It was started in Compton by gang members. But it has, to some extent, begun to break into pop culture, though MTV once declined to show any videos that included the walk.
So was that a cocky endzone dance from Williams? Payback for stiffing her in front of the Queen? Or maybe rubbing it in to Sharapova, the stereotypical white tennis ideal – tall, blonde, thin and beautiful – who gets more endorsement money than Williams despite lesser accomplishments? Or maybe it was a raised middle finger at the tennis world for all Serena has been through over the years?
Well, it’s possible that it was any one, or all of those things. But I think mostly, it was just Williams’ celebrating the way Williams’ celebrates, acting out of joy, and not in-your-face. It was not an intentional snub. It was unplanned.
It’s impossible to say for sure, though. And this just shows how the disconnect between the Williams sisters and tennis, and certainly tennis’ history, strangely lives on uncomfortably.
“It was just me,’’ Williams said. “I love to dance. I didn’t know what else to do. I was so happy, and next thing I know, I started dancing and moving. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.’’
She shouldn’t have done it. She should have known better. Her own sister was murdered, and a crip member pleaded no contest. While plenty of the tennis media, and probably nearly everyone at Wimbledon, didn’t know what she had done, it’s hard to believe that Williams didn’t know.
It still seemed to be just a joyful celebration after winning a gold medal. And I think it was without purpose.
Look, this isn’t easy. It’s uncomfortable, and the pieces still don’t all fit right. But that’s not the Williams’ sisters fault. It’s tennis’ fault.
The Williams sisters are the solution.
Venus and Serena Williams have dominated Wimbledon for a decade. It is the seat of tennis history, all parts good and bad. It should be a perfect fit by now.
There was no worse sign of manners than when Williams was pushed off to Court 2. I think Williams’ crip walk was not a conscious thing on her part, but an accidental release.
A conscious thing was for Williams to practice her curtsy. A conscious thing was for Wimbledon to put her on Court 2 when the Queen was coming.
That moment two years ago moved me. In fact, even when the Queen was involved in the Olympics Opening Ceremony 10 days ago, on Twitter I snarked (is that a verb?) that they had asked Serena to do her athletes’ march not into the Olympic Stadium but instead at Court 2.
Serena has not been perfect. We all saw her go nuts to a line judge at the U.S. Open, threatening and dropping f-bombs. And then it took her a few days to apologize, pressured into it by her handlers. Later, she all-but recanted her apology anyway, saying she had been right all along. It’s hard to remember a time when Williams said she was wrong about anything.
At one point Saturday, she told reporters that she wouldn’t say what the name of her dance move was, that it was inappropriate. That, presumably, meant that she knew what it was. Then, she told a reporter that she hadn’t done it before and didn’t know where it came from.
So sometimes her stories don’t quite add up.
But Venus and Serena are changing the tennis world. Improving it. They won gold in doubles Sunday at Wimbledon, a day after Serena beat Sharapova. That’s two gold medals for the Great American Tennis Story in one weekend.
Tennis owes them one perfect curtsy.