I agree with the general premise that the presence (and success) of the Williams sisters, and the discussions about race that generates, are a good thing. Unfortunately, the ones most in need of examining the issue are the least willing to discuss it.
The tennis media in particular is in great need of self-scrutiny. On examining issues of race and players of color, they have dropped the ball. But not by accident.
Arthur Ashe had a quote about how blacks were acceptable in tennis in small, token amounts, but toxic at higher numbers. We've seen this borne out in the "Williams era". When Venus was still this raw player capable of the occasional upset, but no serious threat to the top, and Serena was largely a rumor, things were fine. The Williamses were a "nice" story. Family comes from a poor background, father uses self-taught tennis knowledge to train daughters into decent players who could make a living on the pro circuit, perhaps bag a title or two. But, of course, they were never going to get anywhere until he handed over the reins to a "real" coach.
Then, an odd thing happened. The sisters learned how to play better. They started climbing the rankings. Soon, they became serious threats to the top. That's when the press turned on them. Richard was no longer "eccentric", but now a lunatic. And they (media) also fabricated this whole "match fixing" scheme at the Lipton final a few years ago, which reached a crescendo last year at Indian Wells. Anyone who looked at the situation objectively could drive a truck through the holes in their scenario. Virtually all of the tennis media participated in this witch hunt, to their great discredit. Then, when that eventually turned on them, they did what they always do: try to pass it on to the women's tour.
Instead of wasting their time creating negativities to hurl at the Williams family (who have been repeatedly condemned for things other players/coaches/families have done with little or no comment), the tennis edia should be examining the real issues in tennis. Why is it that every great (or even good) black player has been developed outside of his/her national federation? (For that matter, the USTA has not been largely responsible for producing top players of any
color, including caucasians.) Why is it that in the last 20 years alone we've seen Allen, Blount, Benjamin, Garrison, McNeil, Adams, Rubin, Williams, Williams, Stevenson, (and numerous lower ranked players) come up from the outside of "the system", yet none from within? For that matter, we've also seen Austin, Jaeger, Capriati, Davenport, etc., come up largely outside the system. That suggests that the USTA's only ability is in the acquisition of young talent, once it's been nurtured elsewhere, and not in the actual development of it.
Why did the tennis media let the Blake issue die so quickly? They commended Blake for "taking the high road" (translation: not making an issue of it and forcing them to examine it closer), and let it drop. Could it be they didn't want to dredge up their own past coverage of Blake, when they wrote him off early in his career. (They've never heard of "late bloomers"?) Other players were given more time to develop before an assessent was made of their long-term potential. Yet many who now praise Blake as part of the future of American tennis gave him no chance a short while ago.
I can see two underlying principles in the way they've dealt with Blake. One: the tennis media has historically underrated the ability of black players, and continues to do so. Two: it ties into the tennis media's other great prejudice- they are pro-men, and anti-women. They don't want to anything to hurt the men's tour. That's why Goran's comments were presented as a mere footnote at best, and Agassi's suggestion that a female line judge needed to "be taken care of" (sexually) by her husband, was passed over. If they made hay of these, the other past comments (including Agassi's "submarine" remark, Krajicek's "fat pigs", and numerous others) would have to be brought up, suggesting a pattern on the men's tour. None of these have been fined by the ATP for their remarks, suggesting approval.
It's why the tennis media hasn't pressed Sampras, whom they've built up as "Mr. Class", on the Venus issue. If you remember, after Venus withdrew from Indian Wells last year citing a flareup of her knee tendinitis, Pete made a remark in his press conference about how "it just flared up" and rolled his eyes in disbelief (to the amusement of the assembled tennis media), then threw in a sarcastic "tendinitis". Boiling it down, we have "Mr. Class" calling Venus a liar. At the time, we learned from a fellow poster with the same condition as Venus that it does flare up suddenly, and can alleviate within 24-48 hours. This was given further credence at this year's Australian Open, when Venus had another flareup. She played through it this time, explaining that she only did so because she wasn't facing a top player, whom she would have had no chance against. She knew if she could somehow win the match, there was a chance the knee would be better in time for her next one. However, had she been scheduled to face a seed, playing would not have been as sensible an option because the risk/reward was to heavily slanted toward risk. Some risk of greater injury, no chance of reward (winning).
So why hasn't the tennis media pressed Pete on this, perhaps offering him a chance to make a retraction/apology? Could it be because he also had commented that Venus doesn't even know where her serve is going, thereby also calling her stupid? In other words, they don't want to expose another pattern. And if they dig into the issue, who knows what else they might uncover on the ATP tour? Is it mere coincidence that all of the ATP's full-time employees (about 90) are white? They had one who wasn't, but he was let go in the recent cutbacks.
There is a lot of information that the tennis media could, and should, be providing to us. On a variety of issues, not the least of which is race. Why aren't they doing so? Are they afraid of what will come out? We need a serious examination of the issues in the tennis media, and of the media itself. That's the only path to growth. We've discussed the issue of race on numerous occasions. We've debated, argued, and exchanged information as well as viewpoints. We've talked about it. And those of us that were willing to do so have learned along the way. It's high time the tennis community did so too.
Perhaps we should just take over.