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View Full Version : Finally A Reporter Who Knows What He's Talking About!


Cybelle Darkholme
Jun 7th, 2002, 03:22 PM
All in the Family

By Tom Scocca

About halfway through the second set of the U.S. Open women's tennis final on Sept. 8, the prime-time audience saw Serena Williams run down a ball deep in the corner, turn on it, and rake a crosscourt forehand out of her older sister Venus' reach. It was a beautiful and ruthless thing to witness. Arthur Ashe Stadium rumbled, as much as a tennis stadium can ever be said to rumble.
"The crowd's getting what they're hoping for, a longer match," John McEnroe said, in the CBS broadcast booth.

Then, beside him, Mary Carillo opened her mouth. "But it seems like--doesn't it seem--this is why again, people have been suspicious of the matches between these two. It seems like Venus Williams has really dropped her form in the last couple of games."

As Carillo was speaking, Venus Williams stung a neat passing shot for a winner. Carillo kept pursuing her topic: "Serena's won 10 of the last 13 points, at a time when it seemed that Venus was taking a very straight, straight-sets path to the championship." Venus poked one into the corner, sending Serena scrambling after it; the little sister got her racquet on it for a return, but the big sister smashed it to put the point away.

Most announcers, confronted with a match as big as this one--the high-profile network time slot, the first Grand Slam final between sisters since the 19th century--would have been content to roll with the hype, whatever happened on the court. Carillo seemed caught by some opposite compulsion, bound to question the integrity of the match, whether the action looked fishy or not.

The Williams sisters have been accused before of rigging their matches against each other. A whispering campaign on the women's tour took off this past March, when The National Enquirer ran a piece--quoting a Williams cousin and an ex-girlfriend of their father, Richard--that accused Serena of throwing the Wimbledon semifinal between the sisters in 2000; Venus went on to win the tournament for her first Grand Slam title. The same week the Enquirer story came out, Venus bailed out of a match against Serena in California, claiming a sore knee minutes before they were supposed to start playing. Even Tank McNamara took a dig at the sisters last week, with a plot line wherein both bailed out of the U.S. Open rather than meeting in the final.

There is, if nothing else, a psychological reason for the tennis world's suspicions about the Williamses. They are bound together more tightly in the public mind than, say, John and Patrick McEnroe were. As Spike Lee put it to a New York Times reporter, the sisters have Negritude; the rest of tennis does not. This has made them, inescapably, a sort of a joint entry. If you beat Serena Williams in the quarterfinals and lose to Venus in the semis, you don't get credit for going 1-1 against two of the world's top players. The Williams sisters have beaten you.

But there's a difference between the sisters cooperating symbolically against the world and cooperating for real when they're supposed to be competing. The Enquirer's sources said Richard Williams claimed to have ordered Serena to lose at Wimbledon, to boost her older sister's career. This is not quite the same thing as a confession from one of the sisters. Richard Williams has said a lot of things through the years that have turned out not to be true--right through the U.S. Open final, when he told the press he was fleeing New York so as not to see his daughters facing off, then reportedly hung around the Flushing tennis complex watching the match on television.

The rest of the basis for the Wimbledon story was that Serena, after slaughtering all comers, had played a stinker of a match against her sister. It was too sloppy a performance to be believed. By that reasoning, Pete Sampras must be Lleyton Hewitt's big brother. Sampras, after all, played the best tennis in the Open men's draw, beating Patrick Rafter and Marat Safin and outlasting Andre Agassi in a duel of brutal precision. Then he came out and flailed through the final like he was wearing a bucket over his head.

The Williams sisters, on the other hand, played what looked like a decent tennis match. It wasn't the best match of the tournament, but when is the Super Bowl the best game of the NFL playoffs? Venus was covering the whole court, keeping things under control, forcing her sister to try harder and wider shots. Serena was not converting enough of those shots. It was a nice, normal match; between 2-2 and 3-3 in the second set, when Carillo was busy casting aspersions, the action was rising to thrilling levels.

It took Dick Enberg, waking from one of his on-air naps, to do justice to the match. Giving no sign that he'd even heard Carillo, Enberg simply, blandly noted, as Serena tossed the ball in the air, that the 1999 U.S. Open champion was serving to the 2000 Open champ. It may be that the sisters don't play their best tennis head-to-head; they're so familiar with each other, it's tough to see how they could. But they've played well enough against everyone else. And with five Grand Slam wins between them now, they hardly need to do each other any favors.



I hightlighted that section because this is what fuels the US against THEM attitude. Instead of being treated like two other players, some of the players and reporters and commentators treat Venus and Serena as if they are the same entity. Especially with that, you can't beat the williams sisters back to back crap. They are two distinct players and its no different if you beat jen and martina back to back or lindsay and monica back to back.

saki
Jun 7th, 2002, 03:31 PM
Yes and no. The article pinpoints something that I too find really irritating - the Williams' Vs the world attitude. But on the other hand, the article does exactly the same: talks about Venus and Serena as the same person. He says that "between them they have 5 grand slam titles" which is hardly accurate - Venus has 4 and Serena's only one was back in 1999... He's just as guilty of this attitude as those he criticises.

Jay
Jun 7th, 2002, 03:35 PM
excellent post !

Cybelle Darkholme
Jun 7th, 2002, 03:39 PM
saki I agree, but he exposes this attitude toward the sisters by participating in it. Of course I accept on some level that they will be regarded in the same light because they are not only sisters, but because they are in the same sport at the same level.

Brian Stewart
Jun 7th, 2002, 03:49 PM
The sisters get treated to a tennis version of "double indemnity", or "double jeopardy". When one pulls out of a tourney, both get blamed. And then they're added together. Sort of a "double-double".

Ask any tennis "journalist" how many times the Williams sisters have withdrawn from a scheduled match in their careers. S/he will probably say "lots" or "dozens" or some such. The answer is 2. Both by Venus, none by Serena. Many top players have done more.

Ask the journalist how many times the sisters have failed to complete a match. You'd probably get a similar answer. Serena has done it a handful of times, but not as much as many other players. And Venus never has.

The biggest knock against them has been for "their" (again in the collective) last-minute withdrawals from tournaments. But were the withdrawals made at the last minute, or merely announced at the last minute? The sisters are superstars. As such, tournaments will hold off until the last possible second to announce their departures, hoping to boost ticket sales.

RAA
Jun 7th, 2002, 03:51 PM
what I don't understand is why people go looking so hard for some dark deep conspiracy theory.

Serena and Venus are each others BEST friend. They LIVE together, when at tournaments the have adjoining rooms, they practice together, the LOVE EACH OTHER. You have to summon up some level of sort of mental aggression during a tennis match, during any competitive sporting competition. That must be SOOOOooo hard to do. Serena has looked up to her sister all her life - does she want to smack an overhead like "TAKE THAT" to her sister like she does to other opponents? I think not. Venus, by her own admission, has always looked out for her younger sister and wanted to see her be happy and succeed. Of course its hard for her to play at her most ferocious best.
There is a blood bond there. This is much harder than Clarisa playing Paola or Justine playing Kim.

you know, in police detective work they say, don't overlook the OBVIOUS. yes, it might be more fun to concoct stories of intrigue and back room deals, but generally the truth is plainer and much less exciting.

persond
Jun 7th, 2002, 04:04 PM
:) The problem is that never in sports history has there been siblings in the same sport with nearly the same amount of talent and success!! How many other families have produce world class athletes at the top of their game and in the same sport???:D :D

The McEnroes, Everts, Bryan twins, Rochus brothers, and even the Capriatis, haven't produced anywhere near the quality of athleticism the Williams Sisters have. And, what about the Clijsters?? Will Elke ever produce anywhere near the results Kim has so far?? Will they ever be ranked nos. 1 and 2 in the world??? If they do, the Williamses would have made the journey much easier for them.:) :)

Williams Rulez
Jun 8th, 2002, 03:11 AM
Brian that is a superb post... Venus and Serena have not pulled out of that many matches, unlike the common perception around here... :)

Moneytalks
Jun 8th, 2002, 06:16 AM
I am a die-hard Williams fan, and even I talk about them in the collective. As a fan of the Williams Sisters (collective), when one wins, I win. When both win, I rejoice. It is only When they both lose that I feel the lose.

Venus, in a interview at last years USO, spoke of how, when they were a kids, all of the Williams siblings would have to "let" Serena win at Dodge Ball and other games they played because she was the baby of the family and they had a tendency to spoil her, where as the older ones could take care of themselves. So, I'm sure there is still of lot of that in their relationship; a desire to see little sis happy. These girls are very very close and love each other like sisters should. I don't care who wins or who's number one or number two as long as they continue to individually and collectively kick ass and take names.

Dawn Marie
Jun 8th, 2002, 07:06 AM
Ruth the problem is simple, many people in this world are ignorant. Some people in this world still don't know how to deal with professional well educated Black people. Mary Carillo felt/said it in so many words herself. When Venus began to make more errors and Serena won a few games in the 2001 US open final, she AUTOMATICALLY mentioned the word SUSPICION?? She obviously can't fathom people of color beng above suspicion, or doing something in an honest way. Nope people like her and John, and Chrissy have no idea how to cope with strong minded well education black folks. So instead they do what they only know how, and that is TRY to make people out to be frauds,or dishonest. Now to be honest imho I think Mary,John, and Chrisy have problems with black people. they are all 3 very bias, and ignorant. This is my opinion and I am sticking to it.:)