Category Archives: Williams sisters
Questions are fair. Assumptions are not. And I think people are crossing the line on Serena Williams’ bizarre actions the other day, when she couldn’t catch the ball, couldn’t hold the ball, couldn’t toss the ball, apparently couldn’t see the ball, serve the ball or even hit the ball during warmups and the first few minutes of her Wimbledon doubles match with her sister, Venus Williams.
Three games into the match, after Serena had double-faulted on all four of her service points, including some serves that she hadn’t hit hard enough to get all the way to the net, they retired from the match. Venus held her hand as they walked to the net for the last time.
So what did you see? Because Chris Evert wondered aloud if Serena’s problem was something that needed to be drug-tested for. And Martina Navratilova said it was “clearly” not a sickness. Williams and Wimbledon officials made things worse by saying, overly generically, that the problem was a viral illness.
And the suggestions might be right, or might not be. My inclination is to be concerned for her emotional state before being suspicious of her behavior. I’m still going back to her singles match a few days earlier, when she seemed scared, fought off tears and played poorly. I’m not just saying this in hindsight, either. What I wrote after her singles loss was that she seems afraid.
It stood out. It was different than the Serena we have seen for years.
Don’t assume the worst about her on this. It’s equally possible that Williams’ issues are emotional. People can be emotionally rung out and it can look like this.
Sabine Lisicki reached the Wimbledon final last year. Officially, that’s why she was selected to play the opening women’s singles match Tuesday at the All England Club.
I wish I believed that’s the main reason they chose her. It’s only suspicion, based on years of anecdotal evidence, that tells me Lisicki was picked partly because of last year, but partly because she is blonde. She is white. She is pretty.
And also because of this: She did not do the Crip Walk on Centre Court.
Is this payback against Serena Williams for her celebratory dance after crushing Maria Sharapova for the Olympic gold medal at Wimbledon in 2012? After all these years, Wimbledon and the Williams sisters still are not a comfortable fit. Even if this snub is just accidental, Wimbledon officials are proving yet again to be too stubborn to move up a few generations and too oblivious to note how it looks. And how it hurts tennis.
Whatever it is, Williams hasn’t complained. The first match at Wimbledon traditionally goes to the defending champ. It’s just an honorary thing, but the little things still carry big messages. The problem is, last year’s champ, Marion Bartoli, has retired. So officials just had to pick someone, like the previous year’s winner (Williams), the No. 1 ranked player (also Williams) or, yes, the loser from last year’s final (Lisicki).
They could have put anyone in that match, really. The inspired choice would have been Venus Williams. She is the queen of Wimbledon, but she’s getting old and has physical issues and isn’t going to win another title. What a great chance to honor her one more time. And if not Venus, then Serena, who also has meant so much to the place and the sport. Frankly, it would have sent a good message about Wimbledon, too.
Instead, they picked the young, blonde and white.
Race is always the undeniable undercurrent with the Williams sisters and tennis. It feels as if sexism is involved, too, as blonde gets too much emphasis. A few years ago, Gisela Dulko and Maria Kirilenko were inexplicably put on Centre Court one7 day. Eventually, TV rights holder BBC explained it, saying that appearance on TV is a factor in these decisions.
But with this latest decision, it feels more like continued bickering between Williams and Wimbledon.
“I can’t figure it out yet,” Williams said. “Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.”
No, she didn’t say that on Friday, when Lisicki was given the match. She said it in 2011, after she and Venus were both moved to an outer court, Court 2, on the same day. A year earlier, the Queen of England was coming to Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years. Williams was excited, and talked openly and publicly about how bad her curtsy was. She said she’d been practicing it, and she demonstrated. She wanted to play in front of the Queen. Next thing you knew, on the day of the Queen’s appearance, Serena was put out on Court 2. Centre Court had Brit Andy Murray, No. 1 Rafael Nadal, and also, Caroline Wozniacki, who was. . . Young, blonde and white.
That still seems to be what Wimbledon thinks tennis looks like. It is the most beautiful tennis venue, and feels as if it’s a tennis museum. They still prefer players to wear all white. And while Wimbledon doggedly preserves the old time feeling of tennis, it doesn’t seem to grasp that without taking action, that also preserves an ugly underbelly of the sport’s history. Continue reading
REPORTING FROM WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — This was not just more of the same for Serena Williams, another Wimbledon, another championship. No, what’s lost is that this was a great comeback story for her.
Two years ago, she won Wimbledon and seemed unbeatable. Since then, she had been beaten down. A foot injury followed by life-threatening blood clots in her lungs. Then, lost confidence followed by lost composure.
She dropped to her back on the court in joy, then climbed into the stands and hugged her dad and her mom and sister Venus, as well as her other sisters. Then she broke into tears while publicly thanking friends and family who were with her in the hospital day after day.
“There was a moment, I just remember, I was on the couch and I didn’t leave the whole day, for two days,’’ she said later. “I was praying, like `I can’t take any more. I’ve endured enough.’ Let me be able to get through this. I was just so tired at that point.
“I had a tube in my stomach and it was draining constantly. Gosh, I mean, right before that I had the blood clot. I had lung problems. You know, then I had two foot surgeries. It was a lot. It was a lot. I felt like I didn’t do anything to bring on that.’
Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com
REPORTING FROM WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — Serena Williams never quite lets us in.
Her news conferences and interviews are acts. So when she throws a tantrum or breaks down crying or, better yet, plays doubles with her sister, Venus, and interacts in such a loving way, it is so different and revealing.
Something has been wrong with her lately, and it’s hard to know what it is. But she was awful at the French Open and was overly emotional during her early matches at Wimbledon, pumping her fist and screaming “Come on!”even after her opponent would miss a simple shot. She was winning close matches but not playing well.
On Tuesday, in the quarterfinals against defending Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, Williams sat between games with a dazed look in her eyes, held her hands up and took slow, deep breaths. She was calming herself as a routine.
It would end up as the best big match she has played since last year’s US Open, when she was still in her 20s. Williams beat Kvitova 6-3, 7-5, and it was the old Williams, dominant with the serve, powerful.
Still not moving particularly well, but whatever — Williams is two wins from her fifth Wimbledon title.
Please read the rest of my column at FoxSports.com
(published June 24, 2012) Tennis cannot get The Match on the court. It never plays out. It’s funny, too, because tennis has been thriving on rivalries. Fans know that history will be made at Wimbledon, which starts tomorrow, because it happens every major. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were the best individual rivalry in sports, and when that one slipped a little, poof, Nadal and Novak Djokovic became the best.
It was seamless. They are always playing for some record, reaching some new height. It’s in such contrast to the women’s game, which has the best rivalry in sports that never happens.
Can we finally get Serena Williams to play Maria Sharapova in a Wimbledon final? They are still the marquee women’s rivalry, complete with tension between players and fan bases, different looks, different styles.
“Tennis is more interesting when you do have rivalries, and you do have contrasting players and you do have different sets of fans for different players,’’ Chris Evert said this week on an ESPN media conference call. Evert has a little experience with game-defining rivalries: Evert-Martina Navratilova.
Williams-Sharapova looked like the start of a big thing back in 2004, when Sharapova, the teenager, crushed Williams in the Wimbledon final. Eight years later, they have played each other just. . .
Eight more times. And women’s tennis has been more like men’s golf than men’s tennis, with a different winner in every major.
Some guy named Webb won the U.S. Open in golf. Do you remember who won the Masters? Bubba. Nine majors, nine different winners.
Please read the rest of my column at The Daily
(June 23, 2102) Here is a video on FoxSports.com previewing the women’s draw at Wimbledon. I pull for a Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova final.
Click here to watch at Fox Sports.com
Serena Williams doesn’t crumble. She intimidates, she bullies, she rages. But she doesn’t act the way she did Tuesday in the first round of the French Open. After choking away the second set against a no-name player ranked out of the top 100, Williams sat on her chair before the final set and started sobbing.
Right there in the middle of the match. Williams was crying. She covered her face with a towel. She grabbed tissue and blew her nose.
Who was that, anyway? Williams went on to lose a three-hour match, a marathon where guts usually wins. Williams, two points from winning, went on to lose to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
In the 47th major championship of her career, Williams had lost in the first round for just the first time. It was also just the fourth time she had lost to a player out of the top 100.
“Yeah, it is disappointing, but it’s life,’’ Williams said. “Things could be a lot worse. I haven’t had the easiest past six months. Nothing I can’t deal with.’’
Perspective. In the past two years, Williams suffered with life-threatening blood clots in her lungs, and, she said, she also stepped on broken glass in a restaurant, leading to foot surgery.
So, yes, losing a tennis match isn’t the worst thing in the world. But Williams said she had to look back, figure out what she did wrong Tuesday and make sure it doesn’t happen again. It sounded like a simple mathematical formula. Maybe it is. Maybe it was just one bad day. But it looked just too different, too inexplicable. It looked like the start of Williams getting old.
Please read the rest of the column at FoxSports.com
(April 26, 2012)
Serena Williams traveled through Frankfurt all the way to Kiev and then to Kharkiv so she could play in the Ukraine this past weekend in a consolation match for a team she doesn’t care about on a surface that doesn’t suit her in an event she has spent years avoiding. She also had a sore ankle.
It’s the same team Venus Williams traveled to Germany with last year, the U.S. Fed Cup team, saying she was available to play even though she had no intention of playing, and was too hurt to play, anyway.
There is a game being played here. Not tennis, but politics. The U.S. Tennis Association and the Williams sisters are attempting to manipulate rules and find loopholes so the faces of the sport over the past decade can play in the Olympics.
Neither Venus nor Serena has met the requirements to be eligible for the London Olympics this summer, and neither can meet them before the games. The rules and requirements were set long ago by the International Tennis Federation, and the sisters were the ones who did not follow them. So there is a real possibility that neither will be allowed to play.
But both want to.
Please read the rest of the column at FoxSports.com
REPORTING FROM WORCESTER, MASS. (Feb. 10, 2012) — This isn’t the way the Great American Tennis Story is supposed to go. Venus Williams’ story isn’t over yet, but it looks like it’s going to have the wrong ending. You’d like for it to end with a bang, with some kind of glory. She has meant a lot to a lot of people.
“I don’t know if I will ever feel normal again,” she told me this week at the US Fed Cup victory in Worcester, Mass.
“I don’t know if I will.”
Roughly half a year since she last played on tour, since she finally was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome and began treatments, Williams is about to try to come back.
She hopes to get into this summer’s London Olympics, but she will have to grind her way through the most physically demanding part of the season even though she doesn’t know how she will feel tomorrow.
Maybe the glory is in the way she’s fighting the disease that has stolen so much of her energy. She has changed to a vegan diet, and she says the medicines slowly are making her feel better.
But what does “normal” mean for Williams?
Please read the rest of my column in FoxSports.com here