not sure if it's been posted, but it was a good read from Pete
The Serenity Prayer Posted 03/31/2007 @ 6 :41 PM
Those of you who have been fortunate enough to know how much good this world has reaped from the group, Alcoholics Anonymous
(and its 12-step program), will be familiar with The Serenity Prayer
. Although it rings of contemporary spiritualism in an age when battling substance abuse seems to have become a mandatory line-item on every hipster and celebrity's resume, it was written by the decidedly old-school Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr
. It has helped salvage and even save the lives of countless addicts. The part adapted by AA goes like this:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Tennis has a Serenity Prayer now, too. It's shorter and it goes like this:
Oh my God please let me never have to play Serena Williams 'cause there ain't a danged thing nobody can do when she's gets a notion to lay a beatin on someone. Hear me, God? God, are you there? Please say you hear me!
To her everlasting credit, Justin Henin, World No. 1 (which means the next best player in the universe after Serena, who's from some planet spawned in George Clinton's
imagination. What? You're not familiar with Booty Body Ready for the Plush Funk
?) went out to play the final of the Sony Ericsson Open
today, ready to do business. Henin and Williams have demonstrated over the past few years that they are the only women tennis players who matter.
Oh, Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova have their moments, and great ones they are. But even if you discount the take of major titles, it's clear by now that while Mauresmo and Sharapova are great players, Williams and Henin are great warriors who happen to play tennis. What does it tell you about the problems afflicting women's tennis that these two, who are a cut above their rivals, last met some four years ago? It was worth the wait.
And what a contrast these two presented on this sunny, languid day on Key Biscayne. There was Williams, a voluptuous, strong, sensuous woman whose game sometimes is all over the map, even though her fighting spirit is ever-present. At times, though, it needs to be coaxed awake. Yesterday was one of those times. The best incentive for rousing the beast is Serena's realization that she is in a little bit of trouble, and on Planet Serena, that can mean being down, like she was today, 0-6,4-5, two match-points. She's larger than life and, in a way that's very unusual in professional tennis, a lot of fun - a carnival act that, at varying times, relies upon props like outlandish costumes, grease paint, and bombastic rhetoric: Ladies and gentlemen, come see the amazing, one-and-only, fantabulous Serena Williams perform yet another death-defying act on the high-wire of the WTA!
By contrast, Henin is pure business. She wears that baseball cap that sticks out like a duckbill on her small head. Today, she wore a discreet pale-blue and white outfit: an oddly conciliatory and very lady-like choice that was somewhat surprising. For while this pale lady with the stringy blond hair has the plain visage of a woman who has dedicated her life to God (in a way she has; tennis seems to be her Thing of Utmost Importance), her heart is filled with a cold and remorseless desire to defeat and dominate. In a truer world, she would be forced play in a black hooded cloak and carry a scythe instead of a racket.
For the better part of the first two sets, Henin played the part of the Grim Reaper to a tee. She scampered around the court, making Williams look sluggish, ill-prepared, undisciplined (note that I did not include "nervous"; Serena doesn't do nervous). But at crunch time, in the mid-to-late stages of the second set, when Henin scored a potentially fatal break for 4-3 and another one for 5-4, Serena teased a little more out of her game, and Henin a little less. That is, Serena lifted her game on the big points, while Justine dampened her own.
Henin had served very well early in the match. Isn't it weird, how she abbreviated and "improved" her service motion so that in now resembles the kind of serve of which you say, "She ought to work on that service motion, it looks way too rushed!" ? But the quicker, more compact motion has yielded good results; today she hit an impressive number of lethal slice serves, some for aces, one or two for second-serve aces. I don't want to go all geeky on you, but the slice is a wise choice for a player like Henin. By stretching the returner with a swerving, low, ball, she gains a precious fraction of a second (which means more open court space) for her next shot. That is, the slice may open the court better than the flat hard one, or the kicker.
Yeah, but so what? When it really counted, Henin's serve efficiency dropped. She blinked. And you don't close your eyes, even for a milli-second, when Serena is backed into a corner and looking to bust out. Both women know this, and both acknowledged it as the key to the match. In the agreeable if subdued presser with Henin, I asked, "On the two match points, as you think back on them, do you feel that Serena forced the play and seized those points, or did you in some way make errors of judgment on them?"
Yeah, on the first one, she played unbelievable. On the first one she's been very aggressive. I kept fighting, you know, these two lobs. On the second one, her ball was pretty heavy, and I didn't hit as hard on my forehand as I maybe did it a few games earlier. So maybe I have a little chance over there. I played pretty short, and she goes for it with her forehand.
You know, we can talk about that when you see it, when you look at it, it's two points in the match. So even if it's match points, it's not as important as the few games after that I lost. I should have stayed a little bit more focused and concentrated at that time.
Don't know about that, Reaper. Seems to me that if you win one of those two points the rest of it doesn't even take place, but never mind - your point is taken.
Karen Crouse of the New York Times
cut right to the chase on the same issue in Serena's presser, asking, "Why do you think you're able to stay aggressive on these big points where other players just tighten up or just can't produce the shot? What do you think it is about you that enables you to make those fearless plays when it matters?
I don't know. I'm definitely not a fearless individual. I think that I just ‑‑ I don't know, I feel like when I get down, a part of me just plays better, and I think all champions have that, when they get down, you can't hold them down. I just think, okay, it's not over, I've got to play better. I mean, is there something I can do better, because I felt like I could do better the whole time.
You know, the funny thing about this match is that for all the dramatics - the numerous service breaks, the high-quality rallies, the Henin tumbles, the Williams shrieks and fist pumps - it was really about two women who wanted ownership with equal determination, executing artful games at a consistently high level (at least after that first set), and one of them just showed that extra smidgen of courage and self-confidence. When you snatch a win from a competitor like Henin, under the circumstances at play today, you've bumped your head on the ceiling of accomplishment. Do it enough times and you get a very hard head. And there isn't a more hard-headed competitor in tennis today than Serena Williams.
I had one thing I wanted to ask both women, and I put the question to Henin first: "You look at the results, look at the Australian Open and stuff (meaning the way Serena sliced up the competition) Does the women's game need
you and Serena to be playing matches?
Well, no, we did a lot of good things from the beginning of the season, both of us. It's great to see her back. There's a lot of concurrence, and it's good to see the best players in the world competing in the big events now. But I just want to get focused on myself and see what I did.
I've had a couple of very tough times in the beginning of the year, and I'm back on the court. I did a lot of good things in the last few weeks, so I'm just going to keep going and practice now for a few weeks, rest, practice, and be ready on clay.
Dang it, I almost forgot for a moment that it's all about you, Justine!
I phrased it this way for Serena: "Is she (Justine) a cut above he other women that you've been beating up on, as a competitor?"
I think definitely today she was. I've seen her play a lot of players, and I haven't seen her play this tough when I watched her before, you know, when I wasn't playing as much. Like at the Open final, I thought she was going to do better. So I guess people always bring their A‑games against me, and that doesn't matter who it is. I always am ready.
Dang it, I almost forgot for a moment that it's all about you, Serena!
But that's as it should be. Tennis is a battle between determined individuals, not a hen party where all the social niceties and hierarchies are observed. Quick, someone tell the other women. Now will you all join me in The Serenity Prayer?