Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sore Losers


Venus Williams: Dizzy or Ditzy?

Has anyone noticed that whenever the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, lose to a worthy opponent, it's always due to some injury on their part?

Serena, of course, is famous for being less than complimentary when it comes to losing to opponents, famously quipping that she always beats herself rather than losing to a challenger. Yet whenever they win (especially Serena) after long layoffs or pursuing extra-curricular activities (like acting, designing clothes, or appearing on TV shows), it's always a testament to their lax conditioning and bare-minimum tournament play, which pundits are not allowed to question. Thus an overweight Serena's answer to questions about her fitness at the start of the year was winning the Australian Open. But when she lost to Justine Henin at Wimbleton earlier this year after cramping (fitness issue, anyone?) and then falling on her thumb, it was poo-pooed as attributable to injury. Fat or fiction?

I mention this because Justine Henin once again beat Serena Williams at the U.S. Open - this time Serena attributed it to Henin's "lucky shots" - and followed it up with a victory over Venus (who had beaten her the last seven times they played and seven out of eight times total), only the second time a player has beaten the sisters back to back. Amazingly, Venus - who had been destroying the U.S. Open field - and her mother Oracene attributed it to anemia, something no one would ever accuse Serena of suffering from. (And, going by Venus' outstanding play in the preceding weeks, maybe there's something to be said for being anemic!)


Serena: only her excuses are anemic

Here's the call about the latest excuse from McClatchy Newspapers and the Associated Press:
One hour after taking down the second member of the Williams tennis conglomerate in as dazzling a match as the women's game has produced this year, Justine Henin of Belgium listened with apparent amusement as reporters informed her that her latest victim was suffering from a mysterious illness.

She smiled. Her eyebrows rose. And Henin said, barely audibly, "I'm not surprised."

If Venus Williams was physically uncomfortable in this 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 setback, which sends Henin to today's U.S. Open final against Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, it wasn't apparent until the American called for the trainer at the 1-hour, 42-minute mark, immediately after Henin had battled back from love-40 to hold serve, stabilize and take a 4-3 lead in the final set.

"I'm OK. I was just feeling dizzy, a little sick to the stomach," Williams said. "I'm not really sure what's wrong with me.

"But, you know, credit to her for playing well."

After the match, Williams' mother, Oracene Price, said she was worried enough about her daughter to urge her to get a full checkup. "I want her to go to the Mayo Clinic," she said. She disclosed that her daughter had been diagnosed as anemic after Wimbledon this year and came down with a similar dizziness in California a few weeks later.

Only Williams can say if she was physically unable to perform in the last 15 minutes of the stirring semifinal, but she had enough gusto left in her arsenal to break Henin to close to 5-4. A few moments later, Henin broke back, winning on her first match point at 30-40.

"Unbelievable courage," said Henin's longtime coach, Carlos Rodriguez, who was in rapture not only over his own player but Williams as well. "I've never seen Venus play like this in years. I've never seen her come to the net so often and so well. With this performance, she's back at the top."

No one has ever doubted the Williams sisters talent and competitiveness. But they could certainly use a few lessons in gracefulness and sportsmanship.

As one tennis fan commenting at www.sportsline.com put it, contrast Serena's post-game cattiness with wobbly-kneed Raphael Nada's classy remarks following his loss to fellow Spaniard David Ferrer at the U.S. Open:
All the top players are ultra-competitive so that is no excuse for not being gracious in defeat. Contrast Serena's comments to Nadal who also lost last night.

"I prefer not to speak about my body right now," Nadal said afterward, saying he thought it would sound as if he were making excuses. "He played very good and he beat me."

"Sure there is disappointment for me, but that is tennis," Nadal said.

Disappointing. I am fan of the Williams sister for what they've had to overcome, but they sure make it hard.

Henin played beautifully last night and it was a pleasure to watch.

It seems Serena has plenty of ass but very little class, while Venus may stand tall, but is not above acting small.

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