Great Article: Sidelined Serena Deserves Respect
Sidelined Serena Deserves Respect
By Karen Crouse, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2003
Being No. 1 for 56 consecutive weeks should mean having to defend lots of points, but never your honor.
But this is Serena Williams we're talking about, and so it was inevitable when she withdrew from two tournaments in California last month, citing knee and quadriceps injuries, that the backlash would be so brutal, we're frankly surprised she didn't require additional treatment for whiplash.
On Friday night, word came down that Williams had undergone knee surgery and will miss the U.S. Open, where she is the reigning champion.
There you have it. We hope all the people who took shots at the Palm Beach Gardens resident for missing tournaments at Stanford and LaCosta but making the ESPY Awards and her Hollywood auditions are satisfied.
Williams wasn't acting. She really was hurt. Why does her doctor have to reveal a tear in the mid-portion of the quadriceps tendon before people give Williams a break?
People are funny. Pete Sampras was criticized during the six years he spent at No. 1 for being so focused on tennis that he was boring. Williams gets grief for having outside interests that take her mind off tennis for a few hours a week. You could tear more than a tendon in your knee, trying to cover the court of public expectations.
It wasn't as if this was an injury that materialized out of nowhere. Williams didn't suffer it kicking the backside of meddlesome ESPY Awards emcee Jamie Foxx, though nobody would have blamed her if she had after he made several references to Williams' coupling with Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Keyshawn Johnson.
As was reported in this space, Williams' knee was hurting before she opened defense of her Wimbledon title. She didn't breathe a word about the injury to us. That's no more her style than turtlenecks. She swallowed anti-inflammatory pills and soldiered on.
Her father, Richard, was the one who mentioned it. Serena didn't summon an excuse, much less a trainer. After defeating sister Venus in the Wimbledon final, Serena talked about the toughness displayed by Venus, who fought for three sets despite a flare-up of an abdominal strain injury.
Obviously, veins of steel run in the family. Serena is tough enough to take quite a lot. The pity is some people continue to test how much she can endure by questioning everything from her commitment to tennis to her choice of tennis outfits to her competitiveness when opposing Venus.
The people who can't sit back and appreciate the Williamses' grace and power and panache, who persist in nitpicking every little thing they do or don't do, should know they're revealing much more about themselves than they are the sisters.
Williams has to play through so much jealousy and intolerance every week, it's hard to imagine the pain of rehabilitating her knee posing much of an obstacle. It's just another thing that's uncomfortable that Williams will have to overcome.
The guess here is Williams won't be watching too many reruns of The Golden Girls in the next two months. She'll be otherwise occupied proving herself to be as resourceful and resilient as her favorite cartoon character, SpongeBob Square Pants.
It would surprise us if Williams doesn't return to the tour with a vengeance. The only thing she hates more than losing is letting her detractors win.
Williams will be missed at the U.S. Open. For anybody to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. Would a Lakers vs. Nets matchup in the NBA Finals be as interesting if Shaquille O'Neal couldn't play?
Flushing Meadow without Serena will be like the Bob Hope Classic without Bob Hope. She is a natural entertainer who makes tennis infinitely more enjoyable for the masses. Arthur Ashe Stadium is the ideal stage for Serena, who can project her personality so even the spectators in the cheap seats feel its heat.
The U.S. Open women's race has opened like an unlocked treasure chest, that much is true. It may be more competitive with the most dominant player sidelined. However, more competitive should not be confused with more compelling.
Serena and Venus remain one of the marquee stories in sports. They are the best things to happen to tennis since Bud Collins. Serena shouldn't have to leave the tour, if only for six to eight weeks, before people can appreciate that.