Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Serena Qualifies for Madrid

No, this hasn't beocme a Serena Williams fansite. But when Serena plays three events three weeks in a row after an injury plagued summer, and qualifies for the Season Ending Championships in Madrid on the strength of her European indoor performances, not to mention her Australian Open and Miami crowns, as well as her run to the quarterfinals of the other Slams, well, she's bound to get a lot of ink on any tennis site this time of year.

I promise that coverage of the Madrid Masters on the ATP, which I'm happy to be watching on TTC from my home television, is forthcoming - forgive me for not being able to do a preview while I was in Pittsburgh at a conference - as is my take on the terracotta warriors sculptures of those men who qualify for The Masters Cup in Shanghai, the top three of which were on already on display this week in Madrid already.

But back to my girl. Here's what she had to say upon receiving the news that she'd qualified:

"I'm delighted and surprised to have made it to the Sony Ericsson Championships. When I started the year, I honestly never thought I would be in the position I am in now with a Grand Slam title under my belt and getting closer to playing some great tennis. I thought I missed my chance by not playing this summer but I have been really excited to be playing in Europe the last few weeks and I made it sooner than I thought. I am dying to visit Madrid, a city I have never been to before, and making the Sony Ericsson Championships is a double bonus for me. It's going to be great!"

Not too shabby for a player playing with almost no confidence right now. (And here comes my Tuesday Tirade, after all...)

In her final against Elena Dementieva, Serena was as bad as ElenaD was good. Seems to me those three straight losses in the quarterfinals of Slams to her nemesis/archrival have more than knocked the wind out of Serena. And as fans of this sport, I can't see how anyone would overlook the impact of those losses, whether you love, hate, or are ambivalent about Serena.

And surrounding and in the midst of those losses, she has been dealing with some very unlucky injuries. Injuries that killed the momentum gathering in her year after Melbourne and Miami. We know how important momentum is in a sport such as tennis. Any sport, really.

A context that hasn't even been mentioned.

And yet, within this context, Serena advanced to her first final since Miami, at a Tier 1 event which she hadn't played since her tour debut 10 years ago, no less, defeating some solid players to get there, and she's being raked over the coals by fans and commentators alike (Corina Morariu needs not ever commentate a Serena match again - she was nothing short of nasty) for being heavy and unfit and for not being able to win the title over a player many seem to admire a whole lot more? After which she even had the gall to say that ElenaD played a fantastic match?

Serena is doing exactly what her staunchest critics have almost demanded: she's taking tennis seriously, playing week in and week out, even with heavy strapping on her right thigh, and she'll be back at the championships for her first appearance since 2004 when an abdominal strain kept her from hoisting her second YEC trophy.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the her naysayers have to say about this come Madrid if Serena remains healthy enough to compete well there.


Karen said...

I just looked at the tennis.com site to see the score re the Patty/Serena match and see that she got bagelled in the first set and the final set had her losing 3-0 for a final score. What the hail is going on? Serena being bagelled by Patty Schynder and losing 1-1 to LenaD. It is quite obvious that Serena has a serious injury. Girl, stop playing and get some rest.

Craig Hickman said...

One of the things Serena doesn't get credit for is never using an injury as an excuse for losing a match. Of course, if she has to retire, she has to retire, but if she finishes a match with an injury, you don't hear about it.

I'm choosing to be cautiously optimistic in saying that she will be healthy for Madrid.

rabbit said...

I love Serena, but I am a little wary about praising Serena on the injury issue. Especially after her rib injury claim in the middle of her match against Davenport in the Australian Open final in 2005. That looked a little iffy to me.

Karen said...

Rabbit, at the of the rib injury issued (think there was a foot involved as well) there was no love lost between Serena/Venus/Davenport. Serena played really awful during the first set of that match and came back on fire in the third set to bagel Lindsay and win the title. If she said that she played through a rib injry that may have just been her rubbing it in on Lindsay. These days though like Craig said I doubt she will use an injury to explain her loss, except when the other person is Justine. Man, will those 2 ever be friends.

Craig Hickman said...

rabbit, as someone who knows a little something about the body, that rib injury wasn't iffy at all. "Rib malfunction" is what physical therapists, trainers, OT's and others called a dislocated rib. All it needs is manual manipulation back into its cage and it's just as if you've never had any pain in the first place.

In short, I didn't find anything iffy about that situation.

(Karen, she didn't talk about it except when asked after the match. Her answer was brief and she moved on.... Lindsay and Serena get along great, by the way, as do Venus and Lindsay.)

I'm not asking that Serena be praised, but you don't hear Serena talk much about her injuries after losses (except in the case of Justine - LOL). She's like my other fave in that regard.

Soothing said...

As I've just started following tennis seriously from the start of the year, I wanted to get your opinion on why there is such criticism and overwhelming dislike for Serena. I'm aware of the never ending "Doesn't give credit to opponents", but is that the extent of this constant barrage of disparaging comments. I find it to be pretty disgusting coming from the US press, commentators, etc. Especially taking into consideration the lack of excitement when the Williams don't play.

Mad Professah said...

Dementieva did play an excellent match against Serena! But, Craig I agree--I'd be fine if Corina Moriaru never called another TTC match, let alone Serena match.

Craig Hickman said...

soothing, welcome aboard. Good to see your here.

The easiest (and most accurate) answer to your question is racism, the disease that keeps on giving.

But I also think people are full of envy. Serena hasn't promised to give her firstborn to tennis and people simply don't like it.

How dare a "part-time tennis player," as Morariu called Serena several times in the Moscow, win 8 Grand Slam singles titles? How can a player who simply has power and athleticism win big on every surface? People don't want to give Serena credit for being all of who she is. Yes, she's powerful and athletic, but she's also naturally gifted, intelligent, and quiet as it's kept, can hit every shot in the book when she's playing her best tennis. To listen to Morariu, Serena has never hit a volley in her life. Serena can do it all, and she has the nerve to have interests outside of tennis for which she's also become famous, but because she doesn't eat, breathe, sleep, and shit tennis, she's maligned, misquoted, and misunderstood.

And people love to tell only part of the story. Serena had a groin injury after Miami that kept her from playing Fed Cup and disallowed her to play a full claycourt season in preparation for Roland Garros. But, again, to listen to those with the loudest voices, Serena was simply too arrogant to prepare for Roland Garros, believing she could waltz into the event with no preparation and win the title. How happy were they to see Justine dismiss her in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

Justine Henin has played exactly two more events than Serena (12 to 10) over the last 52 weeks, but does anyone call Justine a "part-time" player? Anybody?

Hell no.

She can withdraw from a Tier I event (Moscow), citing injury, while she's still playing at and winnning a Tier II event (Stuttgart), but does anyone cry foul?

Hell no.

The prosecution rests.

Soothing said...

Thanks, Craig for your analysis of the situation. I'd pretty much come to the same conclusion, but the intensity of the critisism is such that I thought I'd missed some heinous act committed in the past. It's really a shame,because a casual fan has nothing but what is said by commentators to go by.