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post #1 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 06:31 AM Thread Starter
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Serena's Protest

Serena's protests lack teeth

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By Kamakshi Tandon
Special to ESPN.com
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Javier Soriano/Getty ImagesSerena Williams believes the WTA Tour's punishments are too severe.
MADRID -- Serena Williams is on a four-match losing streak for the first time in her career, and she wants you to know that she's holding the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour responsible. Recently, Williams has repeatedly accused the tour of forcing her to playing tournaments when not fully fit, alluding to a draconian system of fines and punishments that compels her to drag an obviously hurting leg on court week after week.


A few days after she lost in Rome last week, an update on Williams' Twitter page said, "I don't think it was a good idea to play Rome, but I would have been punished so I played and now I am suffering but the WTA has RULES!"


She expanded on the theme in one of her typically colorful blog entries for her Web site, writing: "Now, I'm getting my leg prepared for the French Open. I don't think it was good for me to play Rome, but the WTA has rules and regulations that they enforce. There are moments like now where I feel they don't care if you are headless if you don't play a tournament you are severely punished. I personally disagree with some of the rules enforced by the WTA, yet I comply. So, for now, I am preparing myself and trying to remain calm."


Just to make sure the message was getting through, Williams repeated the sentiment in similar terms during a pre-tournament news conference in this week's Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open. "Unfortunately, it doesn't matter if you are injured, it doesn't matter if you are dead or alive, if you don't play they are going to fine you heavy on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, so I have to play," she said. "Whether I'm injured or not, that's how it is, so I have no choice."


A day later, Williams retired at 6-4 down against Francesca Schiavone in her first-round match with a right knee injury, acknowledging that she abandoned the match to avoid aggravating the injury ahead of the French Open. "I didn't want to risk my chances to play Roland Garros," Williams said after Monday's loss. "I wanted to do well [here] but at the end of the day, I'm trying to play Paris and still trying to play singles and doubles there."


She had anticipated the injury would be an issue before arriving in Madrid. "Yeah, but I don't really have a choice whether I can play or not," she said, echoing her earlier complaints.


Williams said the problems that have plagued her through the early spring are all related, beginning in the final of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and continuing through first-round losses at the Andalucia Tennis Experience in Marbella, the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome, and now Madrid.


So what are these "severe punishments'" compelling the world No. 2 to traipse around the courts of Europe instead of resting her leg? Actually, nothing that debilitating -- a couple of five-figure fines and potentially a few hundred thousand in bonus prize money. Not peanuts, but hardly crippling for a multimillionaire athlete who values her health.
[+] Enlarge Ryan Pierse/Getty ImagesDespite the amount of money Serena Williams has earned, she takes exception to giving any of it back to the WTA Tour.


For a player at Williams' level, pulling out of Madrid would mean a $75,000 fine, plus giving up the $400,000 in bonus money the WTA awards to top players for playing all four mandatory events. But Williams had already forfeited the bonus when she pulled out of the mandatory BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, so the only financial cost of pulling out of Madrid would have been the fine, which is relatively modest given her $2 million earnings to date this season.
Still, the recently cost-conscious Williams sees even $75,000 as steep. "I'm remodeling a house," she said. "Seventy-five thousand dollars -- I don't know about to anyone else, but that's a lot of money to me. That's like my whole furniture bill -- some stairs, rugs, that can go a long way. In this economy, I'm not in a position to just write out $75,000 checks. Are you?"


Ana Ivanovic, who also has a knee injury, decided to go the opposite route, withdrawing from Madrid and accepting the penalties. The Serb has also previously criticized the tour's increased scheduling requirements: "I do believe it's going to be a lot of tournaments we have to commit to and it's maybe going to be a little bit harder in that sense," she said at the end of last season. "We don't have much opportunity to choose, and at the end of the day it might be that we play more matches than we did in previous years." Of course, the real teeth behind participation in mandatory events like Madrid is supposed to be the suspension players can receive for missing it. But that rule has a major loophole -- the suspension is waived as long as the player appears at the tournament to explain her absence, or does a tour-related promotional event in the tournament region in the next 12 months.



What's more, WTA officials say that fulfilling the appearance obligation also cancels out the fine, leaving only the rankings penalty of zero points for the tournament. That makes Williams' financial concerns and statement about "having to play" even more incongruous. In fact, she need never have set foot on court -- having come to Madrid and already done her pre-event promotional activities by Monday, she had already saved $75,000 for the home renovations budget and didn't have to risk further injury by playing a match.
The increased scheduling restrictions the tour has introduced this year have come with a significant increase in prize money, most prominently the $4.5 million events like Madrid that offer prize money equal to the men's. Wittingly or unwittingly, players traded freedom for cash when submitting to the Roadmap.
The ATP's stance


The ATP also levies punishments to players who miss mandatory events. Here is a brief outline from ATPworldtennis.com:
If eligible to play in one of the Grand Slam or ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments, a player must count the points from these tournaments, even if it is 'a zero pointer' because he missed the event. Just as in Formula One and numerous other sports, if a competitor misses a race or an event, he loses his chances to earn points. Players with direct acceptance who do not play an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament will be suspended from a subsequent ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event which will be the next highest point earned ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event within the next 12 months. If an injured player is on-site within the first three days of a tournament to conduct promotional activities over a two day period, a suspension will not be enforced but a 0-pointer will be counted on a player's ranking.



Many realized it only at the end of last season, too late to push for signficant modifications. "Many players probably didn't look deep into it and kind of let it go, and all of a sudden you're there with the change, so it's a little bit hard," said Ivanovic.


"The WTA is doing everything for themselves, for the sponsors, but they don't realize we have to choose where we want to play and not want to play," said Agnieszka Radwanska, just one of a number of players expressing reservations and confusion about the upcoming season's calendar makeover.


Ironically, one of the few players who expressed public support for the changes has been Serena's sister Venus, who is a member of the WTA Player Council.


"It creates a stronger business model for not only the players but the tournaments," said Venus. "I feel like the Roadmap is a great thing."


"The cornerstone rationale behind the tour's 2009 Roadmap calendar is that fans deserve to see their favorite players playing more consistently on the tour's biggest stages, and that players deserve as healthy a calendar as possible," the WTA Tour said in a statement. "In this latter regard, the tour's 2009 Roadmap calendar is in many respects the healthiest calendar for players in the tour's history, highlighted by a longer offseason, more in-season breaks, and a top player commitment reduced from 12 to 10 events."


Serena was even-tempered on Monday, given the circumstances, but would not be drawn on whether she would accept a drop in prize money for the return of greater flexibility. "I don't know about that; I'm just here to try to compete and do my best and it didn't work out," she said.
One of the key elements of the new tournament participation rules is that being injured no longer allows players to avoid fines and/or an appearance at bigger events. Asked if she thought the new rules were developed partly as a reaction to her frequent and sometimes dubious pullouts in past years, Williams said, "Yeah, I don't know, I guess."
Last week, Williams made headlines when she declared that she, and not the newly crowned Dinara Safina, was the "real" world's No. 1. The truth of the statement is difficult to dispute, even if the reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champ drew some criticism for her bluntness.
But her protests about being forced to play ring more hollow. For years, Williams paid the rules scant attention and set her schedule according to her own priorities and physical state. Now, she seems to be setting a rather low price on her own health by choosing to play injured rather than pay a few fines.
It's a strange sight: a player who has earned almost $24 million in prize money during her career -- not to mention millions more in endorsements -- martyring herself over a few hundred thousand dollars. But so far, she has no convincing explanation for why she has made that choice. And make no mistake -- a choice it is.
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post #2 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 06:39 AM
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Re: Senena's Protest

It is not anyone's business to discuss finances of other people. It's rude, unprofessional and classless.

The article could have made it about Serena being foolish about her knee and her legacy and the slams, blah blah -- but it focused on money. Talk about classless. It totally drained any respectability the article had to offer.
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post #3 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 06:43 AM
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Re: Serena's Protest

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/jonathano...wta_rules.html

Posted on the BBC website last night. She should really talk less in public.

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post #4 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 07:54 AM
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Re: Serena's Protest

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Originally Posted by Inktrailer View Post
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/jonathano...wta_rules.html

Posted on the BBC website last night. She should really talk less in public.


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post #5 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 08:01 AM
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Re: Serena's Protest

It is in poor taste to discuss someone else's finances. But in this case both the BBC and the ESPN articles merely quoted what was already in the public record --- that is, her earnings as listed on WTA website and Serena's disclosure at a press conference about her remodeling expenses as the reason for playing to avoid a fine. They obviously had to reference her income level to put the $75,000 fine into perspective. The reporters didn't dig into her personal finances. They didn't make any judgments about how she handles her finances or her lifestyle. The ESPN piece did however question whether an injured professional athlete should protect her bankbook instead of her body. Because Serena raised her financial situation as the rationale for playing despite injured and so it was not only right --- it was essential --- for the reporters to bring that into the story.


The real problem with the BBC story is Overend's assumption that Serena didn't seek a medical waiver and that she doesn't understand the WTA rules. No one knows for sure if she sought a WTA physician's waiver (as some posters have claimed), but it's 100% certain that Serena understands a doctor's excuse will prevent a player from getting a fine. That part of the story is just silly and unfairly makes her sound not-so-bright.

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post #6 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 09:32 AM
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Re: Senena's Protest

Quote:
Originally Posted by In The Zone View Post
It is not anyone's business to discuss finances of other people. It's rude, unprofessional and classless.

The article could have made it about Serena being foolish about her knee and her legacy and the slams, blah blah -- but it focused on money. Talk about classless. It totally drained any respectability the article had to offer.
Didn't we always read about it in Forbes Magazine?

Oh right, Forbes is the rudest, most unprofessional, very classles magazine in the world!!!!

It is only it is when it is done without the knowledge or consent of the person involved, but clearly with Serena and most celebrities/athletes they have partial disclosures of their assets to the public which this article doesn't get beyond into!

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post #7 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 09:45 AM
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Re: Serena's Protest

she will not takes the RG
why should she concern of missing the tournament
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post #8 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 12:32 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

So, she didn't even need to play Madrid? She would have lost absolutely nothing by not playing her R1, so what's her argument? She'd done her promotional work in Madrid - so the $75,000 fine was waived - and she'd already forfeited her bonus $400,000 from Indian Wells, so no fines.

Anyone else
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post #9 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

Maybe she couldn't get a doctors certificate???

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post #10 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 03:05 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

Who are we to say that $75,000 isn't alot of money to someone. If you make more money, you spend more so $75,000 could very well be alot to her.

If I became a multi-millionaire, I would hope that I remember that 75,000 is ALOT of money!!!
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post #11 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 03:09 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

^^ She'd already secured her $75,000 because she'd done the media work.



Quote:
What's more, WTA officials say that fulfilling the appearance obligation also cancels out the fine, leaving only the rankings penalty of zero points for the tournament. That makes Williams' financial concerns and statement about "having to play" even more incongruous. In fact, she need never have set foot on court -- having come to Madrid and already done her pre-event promotional activities by Monday, she had already saved $75,000 for the home renovations budget and didn't have to risk further injury by playing a match.
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post #12 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 03:18 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

the rules seem fair to me. she could have incurred only a 0 pointer on her ranking for skipping madrid if she complies with the rules.

lets face it the WTA is the one thats made her the highest earning female athlete ever, if she cant come and fulfill her commitments which are as little as doing tournament promotion then she deserves any criticism thats leveled at her.

the WTA isnt forcing her to play its forcing her to support the tour by doing promotional work even if shes injured, i don't think thats much to ask when serenas made a life out of the WTA.

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post #13 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

Can't the WTA deny u access to a tournament if they feel you have pulled out of consecutive tournaments for unwarranted reasons?
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post #14 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 03:59 PM
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Re: Serena's Protest

Quote:
Originally Posted by sammy01 View Post
the rules seem fair to me. she could have incurred only a 0 pointer on her ranking for skipping madrid if she complies with the rules.

lets face it the WTA is the one thats made her the highest earning female athlete ever, if she cant come and fulfill her commitments which are as little as doing tournament promotion then she deserves any criticism thats leveled at her.

the WTA isnt forcing her to play its forcing her to support the tour by doing promotional work even if shes injured, i don't think thats much to ask when serenas made a life out of the WTA.
the WTA did not make her, she doesn't owe them squat.
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post #15 of 74 (permalink) Old May 14th, 2009, 04:06 PM
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Serena misinforms fans & slanders WTA

This blog was posted on the BBC website by their tennis correspondent Jonathan Overend. I think it is a very interesting article and solidifies the fact that Serena really did retire just not to be 'beaten' 4 matches in a row or done it to gain some sort of attention. After reading this I have lost a lot of respect for her as a person.


Picking up the pay cheque has become a casual habit for many tennis players.

I once witnessed a top 10 star sauntering into a tournament office, having been thrashed unforgiveably, and the cheque was acquired with the smile of a lottery winner and the slyness of a pickpocket. A quick glance, to make sure there were sufficient zeros, and he was gone.

Players are creatures of habit - they like to use the same locker, eat at the same restaurant, not step on the lines - and the pocketing of the cheque has become a habit too. Not a moment's thought. Rich man's RSI.

Of course for guys and girls lower down the rankings this is an essential pay day, the only way they can survive on the costly tennis circuit. It's some of the millionaires who could do with showing a little more respect and gratitude, one in particular.

Serena Williams is a magnificent tennis player who retains the ability to play everyone else off the court.

Her "Serena Slam" of 2002/2003, when she won four successive major championships, is one of the finest achievements in the recent history of women's sport and, by outlasting many of her long-since-retired contemporaries, she has proved that a pursuit of healthy off-court interests can assist career longevity.

But over the course of her career too many people have nodded their head whenever she opens her mouth. People are scared of her; officials, umpires, opponents, yes even journalists. And this week, here in Madrid, things have got out of hand.

Serena, who has earned $24 million in prize money from the WTA over her career (and at least treble that with appearance fees and endorsements) claimed she is being forced to play in tournaments.

She said she would be punished if she didn't play and couldn't afford the fines. Folk nodded and wrote the stories.

She has cluttered airwaves, press conferences and even cyberspace with total disinformation and the record needs setting straight.

Since injuring her right knee in the final of the Miami tournament in April, she has played every event she has entered - Marbella, Rome and Madrid - without winning a match. Here in Spain she played one set against Francesca Schiavone before retiring.

On the Friday before starting in the Spanish capital, Serena sent out a tweet through Twitter: "I don't think it was a good idea to play Rome but I would have been punished so I played and now I am suffering but the WTA has RULES!"

She followed that by posting on her official website: "There are moments like now where I feel they don't care if you are headless if you don't play a tournament you are severely punished."



After the Schiavone match, when asked whether she should have pulled out of the tournament rather than attempt to play, she said: "I'm not into just throwing thousands and thousands of dollars away [in fines]. I'm remodelling a house and, I don't know about anyone else, but it's a lot of money to me."

"I mean, that's my whole furniture bill and some stairs, rugs, that can go a long way."

The clear implication is that she feels forced into playing through injury by an overly strict WTA rulebook. A rulebook she clearly hasn't read properly.

Nobody is forcing an injured player to play a match, that clearly would be insane and irresponsible. What the WTA has introduced, for its premier tournaments, is a requirement for injured players to turn up to the venue, shake a few hands, do some media and sponsor work.

If those commitments are fulfilled - and a medical certificate is produced - the fine for not playing will be waived. The player can even turn up on any one of three nominated dates in the future, if more convenient.

Serena Williams would not have been fined for pulling out of her match with Schiavone because she had already honoured her commitments and the suggestion that she would have been fined $75,000 was total hogwash.

The same situation was true in Rome - a bit of handshaking and publicity work and the fine would have been waived.

The WTA has not particularly helped itself by having such a complex tournament structure (and a rulebook which clearly some players cannot follow) but they are totally justified in demanding more from their stars.

Good people, from Florida to London, work tirelessly on basic salaries to try to get millionaires more millions. The least they can ask is a bit in return and Serena's ranting is just plain rude to those who, amongst other things, have secured equal prize money at Wimbledon.

Away from Madrid, where the much vaunted new stadium "The Magic Box" has been short on atmosphere and has been critisised by the players, diplomatically in public, more colourfully in private, Richard Gasquet is starting his fight to clear his name from allegations of drug taking.

The former Wimbledon semi-finalist tested positive for cocaine in Miami and has been provisionally suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) pending a tribunal hearing.

The Frenchman protests his innocence but needs a world-beating legal team to get him out of this one. It's a sad story and a potentially career-ending development for someone who is perceived as mentally fragile and not particularly worldly-wise.

His suspension is under the World Anti Doping Agency (Wada) code, rewritten in January this year, which no longer protects athletes' anonymity after positive tests. Suspensions are now the norm until the tribunal sits, but this was not the case five years ago when tennis faced one of the biggest drugs scandas in sporting history.

Remeber the "Nandrolone Seven" from 2004? Seven players tested positive for the banned steroid but were acquitted on a legal technicality so their names never came out.

I was told at the time, by a very well-placed informant, that at least one major international star was in that group. If the affair had happened now, that star would be firmly in the dock - suspended, named and undeniably shamed. Lucky them.

As for Gasquet, he thought the win of his life was at Wimbledon 2007 when he blitzed 100 winners past Andy Roddick to retrieve a two-set defecit in their quarter-final. A victory in a very different court later this year would be even bigger and, unfortunately for him, even more improbable.


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