Carillo Does it Again.....
THIS TIME SHE QUESTIONS INTEGRITY OF WILLIAMS SISTERS
BY NHB CHAPMAN
The behavior of athletes today leaves a lot to be desired, but in the midst of all the self-righteous condemnation by some members of the media, lost is the fact that some of us, practitioners and guardians of the public's trust, have been allowed to get away with murder.
Take for example CBS Sports' tennis analyst, Mary Carillo. She has been allowed to make a career out of being outrageously unfair when it comes to giving credit where credit is due. This point was amply borne out during last Saturday night's historic meeting of two sisters, Serena and Venus Williams, in the women's singles final of the United States Open Tennis Championships in Flushing, Queens.
Carillo, sharing the booth with anchor Dick Enberg and color commentator John McEnroe, had a rare opportunity to lend a special touch to a unique happening in the world of sports but succumbing to an innate prejudice, made a remark which clouded an historic moment.
It all happened in the second and final set of the championship match (Venus had taken the first set 6-2).
Venus won the first five points of the second set and took a 2-0 lead in games. Serena fought back by holding serve and breaking her sister's to level at 2-2. Serving to go up 3-2, Venus lost her serve and the set stood at 3-3. It was then that the ultra suspicious Carillo made her damaging remark. Thinking conspiracy all the way, Carillo said: "This is why people have been suspicious of the matches between these two. Venus' play has really dropped considerably in the last couple of games."
This reckless remark was immediately torpedoed when Venus broke her sister's serve in the next game to take a 4-3 lead and run out a 6-4 winner.
The key to Venus' triumph was her first serve which, unlike at any other time during the tournament, was on the money. It was thunderous and razor-like in precision. It was an experience like none other that Serena had faced in the tournament and it affected her entire game. Venus' serve put pressure on Serena and had her pressing throughout in an effort to seize on the few opportunities presented. The situation also demanded a flawless display of serving on the part of Serena for her to stay in the match and that was where the issue of "pressing" manifested itself the most. On many occasions, Serena showed flashes of brilliance and indications that she was at the top of her game, but struggling mightily psychologically, and being outmaneuvered and outthought by a serenely confident and magnificently attuned champion.
Throughout the tournament we were privileged to see the rapid development of a legend in Venus Williams and anyone who could not see that and could only focus on the outrageously negative, must be a prime candidate for rehab.
Carillo's calling into question the integrity of the Williams sisters was so hideously unfair, that one wondered how on earth the normally "quick on the trigger" McEnroe, her longtime foil, didn't take her to task. The voices of McEnroe and Carillo were, however, noticeably absent from the broadcast for a few minutes as play-by-play man Dick Enberg took charge, and one could surmise that "Johnny Mac" was letting her have it off mike.
Apparently, the mainstream media gave her a pass on the indiscretion. James Brown, anchor on the FOX network's NFL Pre-Game Show the following day (Sunday), seemed incensed enough by the remark to close the show by saying that the match between the two sisters was fought doggedly and that "there was no FIX there."
It stands to reason that the huge crowd of over 23,000 fans, her mother's obvious hope that it would be a long and entertaining struggle, and prime time television were temptation enough for Venus Williams to take the match into a third and final set. The fact that the defending champion dashed all those wishes with the merciless swing of an executioner's axe, speaks volumes about her mindset and her opponent's going into their encounter.
But any objective follower of the sport of tennis would tell you that Carillo obviously has had a problem giving the Williams sisters their due for quite some time now. This was obvious at last year's U.S. Open (click here for Carillo's remarks about Venus at 2000 U.S. Open).
Carillo has repeatedly raised questions about the decision of Venus Williams to pull out of her semi-final match against sister Serena in the Indian Wells tournament earlier this year. The inference being that she didn't buy into Venus' excuse of being ill. Carillo seemed convinced it was a clear case of the sisters not wanting to face each other.
Former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gorman, appearing on WFAN AM all-sports radio here in New York was asked if he had a problem with Venus Williams pulling out of the Indian Wells tournament at the last minute because of illness. He stunned the questioner with his reply. Gorman in no uncertain terms told Christopher Russo that Venus had the right not to play if she felt she was not physically well to do so. He said the only problem he would have had was if she played and didn't give of her best. Gorman, like the late Arthur Ashe, obviously subscribed to the credo of the Australians that once you put on those sneakers and take up that racket, you're fit.
© NHB Chapman. All Rights Reserved. 9-12-01.