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boggs570
Sep 13th, 2004, 01:16 PM
Is there a deliberate conspiracy against the Williams sisters?

As Serena Williams and the tennis world cry foul
By Ayo Ositelu

WHEN Chief (Gen.) Olusegun Obasanjo, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the early days of his first term as President said that the only human beings he feared were the preacher in the Church or Mosque and the referee in a football match, many thought that the Army General-turned-politician was caught in one of his very rare lighter moods. Nonetheless, the import of Mr. President's confession was not lost on the deep thinkers and the wise in society.

The President's message was as simple and it was true-to-life. According to him, you have to fear anyone whom you do not have control over, in other words, those who have the God-given or FIFA granted immunity and those whose utterances on the pulpit and decisions on the football field can neither be challenged nor changed even by the most politically powerful men. If he had been pushed to expantiate, the President probably would have cited Argentina's legendary Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" which resulted in a controversial goal which till this day stands as the goal which essentially sent England out of the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico.

The very thought that some human beings exist whose decisions and orders cannot be annulled by him must be absolutely frustrating to Obasanjo to comprehend. In the same vein, President Obasanjo must today be sympathetic towards the recent plight of the world famous African American tennis playing sisters, Venus and Serena Williams. How I wish the leader of the black African continent had been watching Tuesday's epic quarter-final clash between Serena Williams, 5 times Grand Slam champion and her compatriot Jennifer Capriati, the 3 times Grand Slam champion and fellow former world number one.

He (Obasanjo) would have seen the helplessness of the 22 year-old Serena as she tried desperately but fruitlessly to make the Portuguese umpire Mariana Alves change her obviously wrong decision in a crucial situation in the match, a decision which would be crucial to her march to the semi-final or her exit from the on-going US Open tennis championships at Flushing Meadow, New York.

For the benefit of those good Nigerians who were fast asleep at such an unholy hour (2.45 a.m.) and so could not watch the epic encounter live via satellite, here are the bare facts or blow-for-blow, better still shot-for-shot account of the beautiful match which unfortunately ended controversially, no thanks to a fourth terrible mistake by the chair umpire. And curiously, all the four controversial calls went against Serena.

When the match scheduled for the expansive 23,000 seater Arthur Ashe Stadium court started, there were only 15,000 in the stands, but by the time the match was deadlocked at one set apiece, it was an absolutely packed house, majority of whom were rooting for Capriati, whose home town is New York.

Serena drew the first blood however by breaking her opponent in the second game of the opening set to lead 2-0, and then needed to survive a bad call at 40-15 and a double fault immediately after to finally win the game with an ace to consolidate her lone service break for a 3-0 lead.

After 31 minutes of near-perfect tennis, Serena was one set to the good when she broke Capriati again in the eighth game to win it 6-2.

It was Capriati who came off the blocks faster in the second set as she broke Serena in the opening game and then held serve for a 2-0 lead. In the seventh game, Serena served two consecutive aces both timed at 117 miles per hour to save a break point and get out of more trouble, being one service break down already in the set. The match had already turned into a pulsating contest of strokes and wits as each drove the other to both sides, and with a crushing ace down the middle, Serena kept pace to remain at 4-5.

In the tenth game, Capriati faced two break points, but on each occasion, she did something special. She (Capriati) then served a double-fault, but she made amends quickly with a gutsy forehand winner down the line. On her first game point, Capriati levelled up at one set each when Serena hit a service return into the net.

The rather fascinating match then inevitably had to be settled by the third and deciding set. At deuce in the first game, Capriati managed to win a terrific rally consisting 18 rallies, and when a Serena forehand hit the top of the net and rolled back to her side, Capriati broke first to lead 1-0. But Serena forced a double-fault on break point from her opponent with the quality and depth of her service returns to break right back for 1-1.

Again Capriati, who was now coming back fully into a match previously dominated by Serena, broke Serena's serve in the third game to stay ahead 2-1. The titanic battle of high drama involving two of the most accomplished players in the women's game rose a notch higher still as both women went at each other as if there was no tomorrow.

By the time Serena served a 119 miles per hour ace to win the seventh game and stay close at 3-4, the two players had won 82 points each. Capriati won her next serve to lead 5-3, but Serena stayed close, and after two hours of a match played at terrific pace, Capriati needed to serve at least one more time (at 5-4) to try to win the match.

She promptly started with a double-fault, only her third in the match. But she was saved the troubled of trailing by 0-30 with another bad call, a shot by Serena which the linesjudge had correctly called good, but which the umpire overruled again. A TV replay on a big screen showed clearly that the ball landed on the line and should have been Serena's point for 0-30 on Capriati's serve.

By the special grace or commandment of the chair umpire, it was 15-15 instead, and even the week-end club players would tell you that there is a huge difference between 0-30 and 15-15. At 30-30, a perfect killer topspin lob hit by Capriati under extreme pressure, gave her the first match point, which Serena cancelled out with a clean backhand winner. Capriati then had another match point when Serena returned the next service into the net. Again, Serena saved the game point.

It was deuce number three, and this was the point where the worst of all the mistakes was made by the chair umpire, who again overruled her linesjudge and ruled that Serena's forehand down the line shot, which was not even close to the line, was out. Again, the video replay on the big screen on both sides of the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court showed glaringly that the ball was good.

Acting out of character, Serena protested vehemently as most cheated humans would have done. Not many would blame Serena for her audible protests. The chair umpire, Mariana Alves, a Portuguese national plainly acted beyond her jurisdiction.

One of the laws on the powers of a chair umpire says: A chair umpire can overrule the linesjudge's call only if she is absolutely sure that the call is a wrong one. This implies that since the ball in question landed on well inside the line far that from the chair umpire, she (Umpire) should have gone along with the linesjudge's judgement. Except of course that the chair umpire is absolutely certain that the linesjudge has made a bad call. I am sure that Ms Mariana Alves would hate herself if she ever gets to see the TV video replay.

The only way she would not feel bad on seeing replays of her unfair overrules including as many as three crucial mistakes in one game for that matter, and the last game of the match at that, is if she deliberately did it in order to help Capriati to beat Serena. Without knowing that or caring that such horrifying officiating is capable of bringing the game into disrepute, Ms Alves' performance on Tuesday received a gnashing of the teeth from Serena Williams, the immediate victim, her family watching helplessly in the stands, and above all, the remaining of tennis faithful around the world who believe in fair play, (apologies to FIFA).

As her complaints fell on the deaf ears of the umpire, Serena fought on, but it was evident from her body language that her rhythm had suffered a derailment. One of the immediate results of particularly the last and most controversial call is that there was an added monumental pressure on Serena not to hit her balls anywhere close to the lines lest someone finds another reason to cancel her effort. If you are tennis player, I am sure you would not want to be in Serena's shoes.

The situation was tough, to say the least, and I agree with the school of thought which says "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going." But even those who came up with such positive thinking slogan could not have put Serena's no-win situation in their mind. Serena tried to get going alright and had forced the game to a third deuce when the final umpire error occurred, virtually killing her spirit.

Three bad calls in one important game is certainly too much for anyone to bear. And so, on the dot of two hours and six minutes, Capriati won the match on her third match point to move into the semi-final where she will face Elena Dementieva, one of the two remaining Russians left in the last four.

This year's US Open has come and almost gone, but it will surely leave a sour taste in the mouth for many, not only the African American Williams family. Tournament referee, Brian Early was the first to react to the controversial match in his official capacity when he told reporters: "I have discussed the call with Ms Alves and she has been told that she will not be playing any further part in the rest of this US Open."

Then he agreed with the rest of the world who have been crying blue murder, adding, "Regrettably, the replay on television showed clearly an incorrect overrule was made." Equally regrettably, the bottom line is that it's no use now, it came too late, and that the result of the match will stand.

To be sure, the Williams sisters are not the first players to have been on the wrong end of dubious officiating, and one must disagree with "Lady" Venus Williams, who after losing her second round match to new-kid-on-the-block Karolina Sprem of Croatia in equally controversial circumstances, said that "one point cannot affect the result of a match."

QUOTES:- For the records, the match between Venus and Sprem had reached a second set tie-break after the Croat had won the first set. Venus led 2-1 and then won the next point for a 3-1 lead. Instead of the umpire to announce 3-1, inespicably announced 2-2.

While Venus was playing the role of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's "Lady," Serena played the role of the late Afro beat king's "African woman" and was not satisfied "suffering and smiling." In fact, on her sister's predicament, Serena had reacted, "That counting error should not be tolerated if we don't want to kill tennis. How would I have taken it if it was me? I really don't know, but one thing is certain. I would not have been ice-cool as Venus was."

A worse case happened to her (Serena) on Tuesday, and as she had predicted, she did not take kindly to the umpire's dubious officiating. She screamed at the umpire so loud that people outside the Arthur Ashe would have heard her complaints. Indeed, the world heard, but as President Obasanjo had feared, no one could change the umpire's decision, however terribly wrong.

The farthest the supervisory tournament organisers and the WTA could go was to kick the umpire out of the tournament, and that is what they did. They could follow with additional punishment to suspend her from officiating in as many tournaments as they wish, but the match result must stand, and this is why the Williams sisters are already on their way back home to the United States.

Now, which is the way forward for the Williams sisters who have a right to feel persecuted by the tennis establishment?

But should one go as far as to suggest that the vastly accomplished sisters are suddenly a target of officials, who may be acting on their own, or worse still, playing out a "script" dictated from "above"?

Serena herself was almost alluding to this when she fumed at a host of calls made by chair umpire Alves. Telling reporters at a post-game press conference, Serena explained, "It wasn't just that point, that's the thing. I know my shots, I know my balls were in.... I know in the last game those balls were in as well. So it's like, what do you do? You just got to keep fighting... I'm very angry and bitter right now. I feel cheated and robbed."

Serena's face did not show her anger and bitterness. She in fact laughed throughout the press interview. But there was nothing funny. Her laughter as she spoke may just have supported a Yoruba proverb, which says "Ti oro ba ti koja ekun, erin la nrin," translated as meaning that "when one is helpless and one is not in a position to do anything about the situation, one just has to accept one's fate."

QUOTE:- Serena is not the only one who is angry. Tennis faithful around the world want to know if the Williams sisters can now rely on tennis establishment to provide a level playing ground for all the players, regardless of country or race. Last Tuesday's controversial match left so much sour taste in the mouth that many are suggesting that the fact that the Williams sisters are black, is now haunting them.

Those who disagree with the introduction of racial bias into the controversy argue that the amazing and gifted sisters would not have won nine Grand Slam singles titles and numerous Grand Slam women's doubles titles and a few Grand Slam mixed doubles titles if they have all along been a target of racial discrimination.

Tennis loving Dr. John O. Esangbedo, a consultant of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, who is a self confessed fan of the Williams sisters, Serena in particular, is not ready to conclude that the Portuguese umpire, Mariana Alves made those ugly decisions in order to hurt Serena on account of her being black. "The chair umpire obviously had a bad-day-in-the-office, and should be punished severely in order that such official sanction would be a deterrent to others. But nothing right now would make her happier than Serena receiving a personal apology from the erring umpire. I agree with Serena that the official apology from the tennis organisers and the WTA is not enough."

Esangbedo added, "Something must be done urgently to further improve the quality of officiating. Through his trademark tantrums and a personal crusage against poor officiating during his playing days, mercurial American John "tennis from heaven" McEnroe's single minded approach towards the general improvement of officiating paid off in the end.

If what happened to Serena happened to McEnroe (three umpire errors in one game), hell for sure would have broken loose. This is what McEnroe has to say about the umpire's third and by far the worst mistake in the last game. Said the 8 times Grand Slam champion-turned Television commentator McEnroe, "It was such a horrendous call. If I was closer to the court, I would have run onto the court in protest." One is not suggesting that the Williams sisters should throw away the decorum and decent behaviour they have always been associated with, but perhaps they can use whatever influence they possess to fight injustice on the tennis court to all. And needless to say, the tennis world wishes that at least one of them come back to recapture the world number one ranking.

There is no better platform to launch a good cause. As the legendary heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali used to say, "When the world champion speaks, the world listens." The world listened to John McEnroe, they will listen to Serena Williams.

Junex
Sep 13th, 2004, 01:43 PM
I think there were a lot of mistakes in his so called blow-by-blow shot-for -shot retelling of what really transpired during that game.

All the bad calls he mentioned never happened at points he said were, like for exmple this bad call that Serena vehemently & violently argued with the umpire:




It was deuce number three, and this was the point where the worst of all the mistakes was made by the chair umpire, who again overruled her linesjudge and ruled that Serena's forehand down the line shot, which was not even close to the line, was out. Again, the video replay on the big screen on both sides of the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court showed glaringly that the ball was good.

Acting out of character, Serena protested vehemently as most cheated humans would have done. Not many would blame Serena for her audible protests. The chair umpire, Mariana Alves, a Portuguese national plainly acted beyond her jurisdiction.



I thought this overrule happened early in the third set and not @ matchpoint. The bad call that happened in the last game of the match (i am not sure @ match point) was not even contested by Serena, in fact Richard was giving serena a hand signal saying it was out as to give serena the benifit of the doubt and focus more on the game than the bad call.

All in all, what this writer wrote might be sighted as true, but there were obvious fabrications that a sane mind might wonder, "what was this writer trying to imply here?"

Junex
Sep 13th, 2004, 01:44 PM
but i could be wrong.
So please anyone, share something here.

chris whiteside
Sep 13th, 2004, 01:54 PM
You can't really take this seriously as the whole furore of the umpire's overrule was in the first game of the third set and not as graphically described here in the last game.

bandabou
Sep 13th, 2004, 01:58 PM
One thing is clear: The overrule in the first game...NO logical explanation for that one.

And THREE calls in ONE game against ONE player, hmmmm....

Junex
Sep 13th, 2004, 01:59 PM
You can't really take this seriously as the whole furore of the umpire's overrule was in the first game of the third set and not as graphically described here in the last game.


Thank You!

I am starting to ask myself "are watching the same match?" .
I think this writer need a tape to replay this match again & again.