Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Monday, November 2, 2009

Serena Williams wins Doha and secures No.1 ranking, will she play the Australian Open?

Serena Williams is assured of being the No. 1 player in the world after beating her big sister in the final of the WTA Championships in Doha, Quatar 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). Serena’s next formidable opponent could come from the tennis hierarchy as she now faces the possibility of not competing in the 2010 Australian Open.


The tennis establishment is trying to penalize Serena for something she’s already been sanctioned for. The Grand Slam Committee is considering punishing Serena for her outburst at last years’ US Open.
Here’s what went down at the US Open. Serena was defaulted from her semifinal match against eventual champion Kim Clijsters. Serena was serving 15-30 down in the second set when she was called for a foot fault.

Replays indicated it wasn’t a foot fault. Serena got very upset. She said the following to the lines person: “I swear to God I’m (expletitve) going to take this (expletive) ball and shove it down your (expletive) throat, you hear that? I swear to God!”

Serena was fined $10,500.00 for her actions. Since the incident she’s consistently apologized for her outburst. I guess to some that’s not enough.

Serena has played in events since the blowup but for some reason the Grand Slam Committee is still investigating the US Open incident. If the committee has its way it’s possible the No. 1 player in the world wouldn’t be able to defend her title in Australia.

The WTA Chief Executive Stacey Allaster recently stated, "It is under investigation. It is ongoing," Allaster continued, "It would be safe to assume a decision will be taken before year-end. Serena has acknowledged the incident as a mistake. It's something she's not proud of, and she's apologised for that."

What’s there to investigate? Why is the Grand Slam Committee making a big deal out what happened at the US Open?

To me this isn’t about an investigation. It’s about the tennis establishment trying to make an example of out of Serena Williams.

John McEnroe got defaulted from the 1990 Australian Open for viciously berating a tournament official. McEnroe has made a living off the “you cannot be serious” rant. He has a long history of berating officials. McEnroe still, at age 50, displays his childish antics on the senior tour.

Serena doesn’t have a have rap-sheet like McEnroe. Why is McEnroe embraced for being a jerk yet Serena is being scrutinized for a one-time incident?

Also, Serena recently posed nude for ESPN The Magazine. Some have said doing such a thing is bad for tennis. Haven’t other female tennis players posed in a provocative fashion? Was it bad for the sport when Anna Kournikova was posing in skimpy attire back in the day?

If Maria Sharapova had poised on the cover of ESPN The Magazine instead of Serena I’d venture to say there would be little if any scrutiny.

Serena has never been fully embraced by the establishment because she’s of a different breed. Even though she’s the No. 1 player in the world, won 11 Grand Slams, and made tons of money she will never gain full acceptance in the tennis world and a segment of white America because she’s African American.

Serena dominates a sport historically that’s catered to the white elite. She wasn’t raised in Beverly Hills at the country club.Serena is from Compton, California. When Serena berated the official at the US Open it was partly a reflection of the community in which she was raised.

Sad to say but American tennis would rather anoint a foreigner like Maria Sharapova as the face of tennis rather than Serena. Granted Sharapova is a great player and is attractive but her accomplishments fail in comparison to Serena’s. What Sharapova has that’s sometimes held against Serena is her white skin.

In short, Sharapova can make the connection because of her complexion.

I’ve covered a lot of tennis. It’s a wonderful sport but it clearly lacks diversity. From the front offices of the USTA, to the players, to the press box African Americans are clearly absent.

Part of the reason for the lack of diversity is directly attributed to institutionalized racism. The upper rungs of the tennis hierarchy clearly haven’t embraced the concept of variety being the spice of life.

If you take away Serena and Venus from tennis the tour would be lily-white: the same could be said if you Tiger Woods weren’t playing on the PGA tour. I think the USTA, WTA and ITF should utilize the star power of the Williams’ family and the charisma of Serena and Venus to take the game to the masses. Sadly, the latter won’t happen because people typically fear that which they don’t understand. It would require the rich powerful elite to constructively attack their ignorance, open their minds and embrace diversity for it to manifest.

The tennis hierarchy is merely perpetuating the lack of diversity by unfairly labeling Serena as an outcast who has a history of abhorrent behavior. Doesn’t it make sense to try understanding Serena rather than unfairly labeling and penalizing her?

What’s also critical is Serena speaking up herself. If she believes she’s being treated unfairly she needs to speak out. She’ll be labeled, fined and or suspended regardless.

But who cares?

The establishment will continue to attempt to make Serena an example of her regardless so why not speak out? She’ll still be the best player in the world and put butts in the seats right?

Stand tall Serena. Let us know how you feel.

Bottom line: the No. 1 player in the world should not be suspended from the Australian Open for an incident that’s already been handled. The ITF, the Grand Slam Committee, and the WTA need to get a clue and get some spice in their lives.

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