Pam Shriver: Williams gets no love at French Open
The ESPN tennis commentator says there is a lack of support for Serena Williams at the tournament, which drags the tennis star down.
By DIANE PUCIN, On Sports Media
May 29, 2009
Good sports television brings an event to life. Good sports commentators bring context.
That's what ESPN's tennis crew does on a regular basis and no better than this week when former top-10 singles and doubles player Pam Shriver pointed out the lack of fan support Serena Williams receives at the French Open.Shriver noted that during Williams' first-round escape from Klara Zakopalova of the Czech Republic, the crowd was clearly in Zakopalova's corner and that it wasn't the first time. "Serena doesn't get much support here," Shriver said. "I think it drags her down."
It was just a couple of sentences, but Shriver's notation of the atmosphere was appropriate because it validated what seemed obvious yet unreasonable.
"I hear that lack of support here more than any other place," Shriver said from Paris. "And I don't have a good reason that explains it."
She said the easy conclusion might be racism but noted that French fans have embraced French players of African ancestry such as Yannick Noah, Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsongas. And it's hard to argue anti-Americanism when the French fans embrace Andy Roddick in the same way they seem to love Jerry Lewis -- for no logical reason.
"There's an undertone of a lot of things," Shriver said. "Maybe it's a combination of gender; maybe they've observed something about her fighting spirit that doesn't suit their eye, but it's very clear to me that the fan reaction here drags her down."
In a video of her post-match news conference, Williams was asked, "What do you think of the atmosphere? She was the underdog, and they seemed to be for her. It was a heightened atmosphere. Was it enjoyable despite the fact that most of the people were pulling for her?"
Williams was seen pausing for a moment before answering in a monotone. "It was what it was," she replied. "They don't really pull for me a lot here. That's fine."