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THE MELTDOWN

She is black; the hair style is right; her outfit was that of a ballerina; and she very angrily smashed her racket! So how is this racist J.K?
She is black; the hair style is right; her outfit was that of a ballerina; and she very angrily smashed her racket! So how is this racist J.K?

In the aftermath of Serena's little rattle throwing incident, most media attention has been on the fatuous remarks of so-called celebrities, desperate to keep their names in the spotlights, who have leaped to praise her motives and label the mild mannered umpire, Carlos Ramos, "sexist and racist". Ironically, one such comment came from a once famous writer of children's books, not known as a sportswoman, who attacked  Australian cartoonist Mark Knight for his brilliant depiction of Serena at the peak of her tantrum, with the result that he is now also famous worldwide and will no doubt increase his income substantially!

 

But has anyone really considered all aspects of the story? Let's look at the facts and 'givens'.

 

By way of setting the scene, Serena has flicked aside all opposition on her way through to the final and now finds herself facing a little known Japanese girl, who has never been in a grand slam final, let alone won anything. As the "Queen of Tennis", with a partisan New York crowd, Serena is confident that she can crown her comeback from illness following childbirth with yet another title. Although warning her about complacency, everyone in her team is confident of victory. Serena orders up new designer outfits for the occasion and practices her victory pirouettes, for which she is famous.

 

The match gets underway, with a majority of the crowd vociferously supporting Serena, but after a few games it becomes apparent that this Jap kid is no pushover. Indeed she has a powerful serve and handles returns very well indeed. After conceding a service break Serena realises she has to up her game and does, but soon she has lost the first set by a significant margin, 6-2. As is the case with any sportsperson when faced with a losing situation, Serena sits and tries to figure out what she is doing wrong and how she is letting this inexperienced child at the other end get the better of her. When she gets up for the second set, Serena may be outwardly calm and confident looking, but inwardly she is not in a good place.

 

Meanwhile coach Patrick has also recognised the danger and proceeds surreptitiously to 'coach' Serena from his seat, using a series of hand signals that Serena probably knows well. Serena, of course, does not spend any time obviously looking in Patrick's direction, but just as we all see things from the 'corners of our eyes' from time to time, she must notice what he is up to. Of course, Serena knows well that Patrick is breaking a rule and that as the intended recipient of the coaching, she is deemed guilty also, whether or not she sees what he is doing and takes heed.

 

Then there is Carlos Ramos, sitting on his high chair, responsible for ensuring that the match is played strictly in accordance with the rules of international tennis, particularly in a match as important as this one. Carlos sees what Patrick is up to and has to call a penalty.

 

Serena's game has meantime improved a little but Osaka is still playing well and Serena must inwardly be starting to panic, her dream of another victory starting to slip away. With imposition of the penalty, Serena starts to lose self control and the rest is history. The strange thing is that in between her three outbursts she maintains a strange calmness and when Osaka makes her match winning shot Serena quite genuinely runs up to the net and embraces her.

 

Were Serena's almost hysterical conversations with Ramos and the other officials actually a case of 'gamesWOmanship', designed to disrupt play, buy time and unsettle her opponent, a practice that is quite common in tennis? (Ask John McInroe) Probably not, because she was 'way over the top'.

 

Finally there's the crowd, of which many people on such occasions are not tennis fans, don't know the rules and only attend a grand slam final because it's a place to be seen socially. Suffice to record, their behaviour was appalling and brownie points to Serena for stopping the booing.

 

Incidentally Ramos did not attend prize giving and receive his memento, because he knew that to have done so could have made the closing ceremony even more of a disaster. Why did he have to suffer so much hate and stress for simply doing his job? If the rules aren't fair, change them, but as long as they are in the rule book, an umpire is obliged to enforce them.

 

And to close, what if the one screaming at the umpire and smashing her racket had been Osaka? In that unlikely event, would she have been penalised more severely than Serena? Answer - Yes, probably, because she is not the Queen, which means in fact that Serena did in fact receive special treatment, by being allowed to continue with her rants!

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