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View Full Version : A wonderful analysis of Serena's media critics


Volcana
Feb 2nd, 2007, 12:44 PM
apologies if it's already been posted. The article is longish, so I pulled the relevant quotes. Follow the link for the entire article.

http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/aus07/columns/story?id=2745086

Bonnie DeSimone, [/i]ESPN.com]


The deeper Serena Williams drilled into the Australian Open draw, the more one particular rock 'n' roll lyric seemed to apply. Go out yonder, peace in the valley
Come downtown, have to rumble in the alley
Oh, you don't know the shape I'm in

It's unlikely that Williams' musical tastes stretch back to that rollicking number by Robbie Robertson and the group simply known as The Band. It's pretty certain she'd appreciate the sentiments, though.

Williams showed up in Melbourne ready to rumble, but she was discounted from the start, due almost entirely to the shape people thought she was in. Some observers used vaguely scolding euphemisms about form and fitness. Some flatly described her as overweight.
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From there, people made assumptions. Serena couldn't be serious, showing up like that after last season, when she'd played so sparingly. Her extra poundage added up to lack of discipline and commitment. She's been on the fence for awhile now, the rationale went, and we're tired of the same old, same old! Fish or cut bait! Play or stay away!
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All other things being equal, there's no question that the fittest players give themselves a better chance to win on any given day.
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Yet trying to read Williams' body was as risky and imprecise as trying to read her mind. It was also presumptuous, since no one on the outside really knew what she'd been doing in the gym or at the table, and it completely discounted whatever internal work she did to get mentally and emotionally ready to invest in a whole season of tennis.
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Sometimes the body betrays the mind, and a supremely fit player blows a match. Sometimes, as more than one rapidly backpedaling writer or commentator observed during the Aussie fortnight, a player "plays herself into form" over the course of a tournament. Sometimes the mind leads the body.
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The suspicion here is the bashing Williams took going into the Aussie Open was less about her actual shape than about the self-righteous irritation brewing in her audience over the last two years. Her desire would have been questioned even if she'd shown up newly svelte. Tennis fans and analysts were fatigued by her apparent ambivalence toward the sport. Her figure was simply more evidence for the already weary and skeptical.
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As they say in court, that evidence was inadmissible. Those who wanted Serena to commit or quit -- satisfied now?
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Williams freely admitted she was rusty and owned up when her play was uneven. But you'd be hard-pressed to find shots or points or games where her fitness alone -- as opposed to her lack of recent competition -- undermined her. Her serve stayed true. Absorbing her high-octane shots visibly wore down her opponents. She got off the baseline and got to balls. When she dug holes, she scrambled out of them. Each of these occurrences was treated as a minor miracle by the match announcers until they piled up to the point where it was obvious they were the rule and not the exception in her game.
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She went into every match as an underdog because the people making weighty arguments against her refused to retreat from their original position. This held true even into the final, where Williams went up against one of the fittest players on the women's tour, a universally acclaimed tennis workaholic, and blew her off the court.
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The idea that Serena is ambivalent about tennis, or uncommitted to it, is all about people's assumptions. Other players getting injured was about ... getting injured. Serena's injuries were somehow surely caused by lack of commitment. As the article points out, Serena didn't display fatigue through the entire fortnight, despite the conditions. Isn't that the true measure of conditioning? Performance?

Serena's critics, committed to the idea that Serena is NOT committed, missed what was directly in front of them. Serena was performing like an athlete who lacked match play, but who was mentally, and physically, in condition to perform at the highest level.

Looking back, the best player in the sport, the most accomplished player in the game, in the middle of her athletic career, coming back from an injury-plagued season, and a tragedy-plagued two years, won a slam. That's not a miracle. That's totally what you'd expect, if the physical and emotional injuries are truly healed.

Brian Stewart
Feb 3rd, 2007, 07:24 AM
One of the things that's sure to irritate the various pundits is that Serena's big comeback at Oz didn't expose any negatives about her, or her competitors, but about them. It exposed their hypocrisy. Why is the worst automatically assumed for certain players and not for others? Why are certain players presented in the most negative manner? The pundits usually hide behind the excuse that the player "has a history" of certain negative behavior, but do they really, or do they just have a history of being accused of that negative behavior? And to borrow from the writer's courtroom example, if you hold many of the proclamations up to the scrutiny you would give a court case, they crumble under the weight of the evidence. (And, in many cases, the players they praise are more guilty of the negative behavior than the ones they pan.)

For example, the proclamations about Serena's fitness, which turned out not to be true. When pressed, many had to (very reluctantly) admit that they didn't actually know what was going on in the "Williams camp". So how would they know what work she was doing? Anyone that knows anything about female athletes knows that there isn't anywhere near as direct a correlation between outward appearance and level of fitness as there is with men. And anyone that doesn't know that, shouldn't be working in the sports media. It's a professional journalist's job to know these types of things. There have been many female athletes over the years who were described as "out of shape, overweight, fat" who were very hard workers who were very fit. This was an obvious failure on the parts of journalists to get the info before making the assumption. (In other words, a failure to do their job.)

I'd love to see "tennis journalism" put on trial, even if it's a mock trial. I'd like to see the members of the tennis media forced to justify their proclamations and assumptions about various players (or admit that they're talking out of their ass). "You said Player A is cocky/arrogant because s/he said (this and this), but didn't Player B say (this, this, and this), and Player C say (these things), and Player D say (such and such)? Don't the comments of these players (B, C, and D) fit more into the cocky/arrogant mold? So why are they described as 'classy'?..."

Or following the article's lead "You said Serena wasn't dedicated enough and wasn't working hard enough. What, exactly, was her daily training routine like?.... You don't know?!?.... Then how can you say..."

tennnisfannn
Feb 3rd, 2007, 09:48 AM
Tracy austin was busy telling australian audiences on day one that she was shocked serena had shown up so obviously out of shape. She then said oracene was her coach and when she had asked her (oracene) if serena had been training in the off season she said she (oracene) had not been in Florida. Tracy was all over that remark like a cheap suit (Courtesy of jim courier)
Even more amazing is she wanted everyone to believe serena hadn't been injured but had chosen not to play.

Mileen
Feb 3rd, 2007, 10:47 AM
Good post from Brian (Brain) Stewart! :worship: