La Times column Serena fans will like...
From today's LA Times:
Serena Can Make Loss Work for Her and Tennis
Serena Williams lost to Kim Clijsters, 7-5, 6-3, Monday night in the finals
of the Home Depot WTA Championships, and it was the best thing that could have
happened to women's tennis.
It is most important to keep Serena interested.
"I like that I didn't win today," Serena said, "because I'm so motivated
right now to win the Australian Open. It's like last year when I didn't play the
Australian, I got super-motivated. I told myself I was going to win the French,
Wimbledon and U.S. Open."
Done, done and emphatically done. That's just the kind of person Serena is. A
So let's expect that Williams will find herself a little more stamina. She
admitted she was winded against Clijsters after being pushed hard by Jennifer
Capriati on Sunday in the semifinals. But Serena has learned to figure things
out. About her game, about herself. She'll do it again.
Before the match, important men wearing suits came forward to talk about how
committed everybody is to bring these championships back to Staples Center. It
hasn't been a secret that attendance was dismal at times and, at best, barely
satisfactory. Some of the players had been openly lethargic, which resulted in
some non-competitive matches.
But everybody is happy, the suits said. The tournament, which had left Munich
after barely touching down last year, will be here again next year, the suits
said. They kept talking about "a long-term commitment," which is vaguely
optimistic. And there was lots of talk about "strong brands" and "brand
association" and "strong brand situations."
Right now, the most important brand women's tennis has is Serena Williams.
Therefore it is important to keep Serena healthy, happy and challenged.
Serena is a personality. She is engaging and attractive. She is physically
imposing with an iron athletic will. She pushes herself on the tennis court --
her game is not only about power now, but about angles and touch and changing
the pace -- and her life off the court is filled with acting gigs and fashion
Serena is fun, she is pretty in pink, a tigress in black and she has managed
to make all the other women, even her older sister Venus, invisible. She has
rarely been pushed on the tennis court this year. Until Monday night, Serena had
lost only four matches this year, and one of those was a mid-match retirement
because of an ankle injury that kept her out of the Australian Open.
That ankle injury might have kept Serena from a Grand Slam sweep this year
because the 21-year-old won the other three biggies -- the French Open,
Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Luckily, Serena has a goal for next year. Winning them all.
Because women's tennis is in a terrible place if Serena gets bored with the
sport and more fascinated with her other interests, you know, the acting and the
A week before the championships, Serena had a guest appearance on the Damon
Wayans sitcom, "My Wife and Kids." Reviews were positive. Serena was a natural.
She's now enthusiastic about some off-season auditions.
"A couple of different movie roles," Serena, woman of mystery, said. "I'm
really, really, really excited. I'm going to try to slim up."
This has been a year of revelation about Serena. She has grown up, as an
athlete and a personality. With a new composure, she discovered her belief in
her ability and her desire to beat everybody, even her role model, her best
friend, her confessor, her practice partner -- Venus.
Serena also has grown comfortable with everything that comes with being the
No. 1 player. She loved the attention her controversial, physique-baring outfits
brought to the U.S. Open. She can deconstruct her game and herself --
"Sometimes, for me," she said, "I need to take a step back and say to myself,
'Keep going ahead.' "
That's a worthwhile discovery from a young woman about herself. Serena
accepted this slap-in-the-face loss from Clijsters as a good thing, as a way to
move into the brief tennis off-season with an emphatic reason to train hard and
refresh for January.
What women's tennis has in Serena Williams is something it has not had
before. Women's tennis has a cross-over personality.
Serena is a winner, as an athlete. As an actress. As a young woman who knows
what she wants and who she is.
Serena can bring to tennis Hollywood glitz, Madison Avenue pizazz, streetwise
kids. They were all at Staples Center Monday.
Kevin Wulff, CEO of the WTA, did notice something about the Los Angeles
crowds. These were some of the most "ethnically diverse" crowds Wulff said he
had seen anywhere. They were at Staples Monday mostly to see Serena.
They love her long, blond hair. They love it when she wears the skin-tight
black bodysuit and when she wears the little black skirt and Lycra pink
sleeveless blouse with a strategic cut-out so that Serena's bellybutton ring
As outrageously nontraditional as her clothing is, Williams also speaks with
emotion about winning a very traditional tournament, Wimbledon, for the first
time as her season's high point. Because, she said, "I always wanted to win
Wimbledon, hold up that trophy with all the history behind it."
When the new tennis season begins in Australia, all eyes will be on Serena.
Can she win a fourth straight Grand Slam? What will she wear? What movie did she
audition for? What fun did she have? For now, it's all about Serena.