Saturday, October 31, 2009

Williams Tennis Association

So.

Serena and Venus Williams were in the championship caliber group for the second year running, but this time, they both emerged, battered and bruised, to contest the final final of the WTA.

(I don't count that other event. I consider it an exhibition of mediocrity. It has no place whatsoever on the tour's calendar.)

I'm writing this before their doubles effort after "suitable rest" because I expect Spain to take that match. But the sisters will take the court and give the fans a semifinal.

And they will not retire.

Serena's left leg is mummified with Kinesio tape and heavy strapping. As though the injury that kept her from defending her title in Miami and interrupted her preparations for Roland Garros has returned. Venus is without mummification (yet), but her back and her knee are not up to snuff.

Neither sister can serve. Neither can run with any confidence. Changing directions looks painful even on the television screen. And yet here they are in the singles final of the season ending championships. The oldest in the field with bodies slowest to recover. Arguably the two best players on the tour -- still -- they've given their naysayers and the propagandists (far too often one and the same) heartburn. I would imagine a couple are choking on their own bile right about now.

Some of the propagandists give the sisters little to no credit, no benefit of the doubt, no matter what they do. The sarcasm that flooded Twitter and the forums after Serena announced her pullout from Fed Cup was quite catty. Any opportunity to pounce, the propagandists take it, and they don't back down.

They're more like the sisters than they care to admit.

Serena Williams of U.S reacts to her win over to Elena Dementieva of Russia during their WTA Tour Championships tennis match in Doha October 29, 2009.
Reuters

Caroline Wozniacki has been held up as the grittiest player at this event for her performance against Vera Zvonareva, an alternate who withdrew after her loss with an ankle injury. And what a performance it was. I'm not going to say Wozniacki wasn't cramping. Clearly, she was. The weather in Doha has been tropical, after all. But I have a sneaking suspicion the "Great Dane" is a better actress than a tennis player.

I found it intriguing that a gracious Serena, after winning her semifinal against the Dane by retirement, said that it was good for the WTA to have a "face" like Wozniacki's on the tour.

Very intriguing.

But the WTA ought to consider itself blessed in every way to have such gutsy, courageous, determined, talented, and yes -- beautiful -- champions still competing, still filling seats, still bringing the ratings, after all these years, after all they've endured. Career threatening injuries, a surgery here or there, tragic family loss, lawsuits, a bottomless pit of scorn, some of it earned, most of it not.

Kim Clijsters is back. Justine Henin is on her way. People are salivating. Some say they will "save" the tour. I admitted Clijsters' return just might be exactly what the tour needed and she delivered out of the gate.

But the sisters never retired, despite the cacophony of catcalls that they should, never doubted themselves, never stopped believing.

In sport, stars are not created in broadcast booths or weekly newsletters. They are born of accomplishment. No amount of hype can win a prematurely anointed player a championship title. This is not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This is tennis.

Instead of trying to rush some other stars onto the stage to replace these lovely leading ladies, the propagandists ought to be propping up the Williams sisters instead of trying to tear them down without relent.

They're not getting any younger. They won't be around forever. They have served the sport well. And what they've done for people off the court, championing women's rights around the globe, opening schools for children in Africa -- to list but a sliver -- has made the world a better place.

Yes, the WTA is blessed, and it's about time somebody said so.

DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 31:  Venus Williams of the United States celebrates a point against Jelena Jankovic of Serbia during the semifinals of the Sony Ericsson WTA Championships at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on October 31, 2009 in Doha, Qatar.
Getty

35 comments:

Veruca Salt said...

Absolutely wonderful post, Craig. I completely agree.

Pamela said...

Excellent post, Craig.

Unappreciated is an understatement in regards to their efforts and accomplishments.

Dapxin said...

no
holds
barred.....

I gotta read this again.

b said...

Great post, Craig..... and Woz was building up to that retirement from about halfway through 1st set, when she realised she had little chance of beating Serena. I fully expected it, although held out hope that she would hang in there. She's very crowd/audience savvy.

I am holding out for them to win doubles too, although they are 3-5 down in the second, right now..... wish i could see it...

Dapxin said...

>>Serena, said that it was good for the WTA to have a "face" like Wozniacki's on the tour.
-----------
did sisi Serena say that 4 real ?

rofl.
If Serena was a boxer....
just imagine?
deft jab!
that was, omg!

jop said...

Is it time to truly question Justine about her 'retirement' in light of the Agassi revelation?? She has had more mysterious 'illnesses' and 'comebacks' which defy any normal athlete's health.

Belinda said...

WONDERFUL post as usual Craig.

Karen said...

Oh man, I am crying. Tears are just rolling down my cheeks. To see Venus today massaging her legs on the changeovers. To see Serena hardly able to move and losing her serve like it was nobody's business. Banged up and bruised. Both of these women are showing champion hearts. No crying, no writhing around on the ground, no bawling. Just going out there, gritting your teeth, getting the next ball, steping to the line. That is heart. That is championship material. That is tennis.

Karen said...

And before I go hats off to VeraZ as well. Vera has been banged up since Charleston this year when she played against doctor's orders. She took the court knowing she did not have much of a chance. She played through a nose bleed and her game going south and the look on her face after the final point says it all. Forty Deuce said it best - whatever "bitch".

skivvy said...

This was *the* best post I've read on Venus and Serena. If not ever, than in a very long time.

rikyrah said...

this is a terrific post, Craig. of course the Williams sisters get no respect; the PGA is almost as bad, knowing damn well that they are ALL making money off of Tiger Woods. in his case, the obviousness of it was too embarrassing, but they still try to ignore the FINANCIAL repercussions of Tiger being in a tournament. Same thing for the WTA and the Williams sisters. do you think I even WATCH a tournament if the Williams sisters don't advance?

nope.

Savannah said...

Karen excellent post about Bepa. She kept falling during her match but no one commented much on her grit in playing despite suffering what should have been a season ending injury earlier in the year. They wanted her to freak out.

Craig, you've done it again. Spare no one in your condemnation of how the WS have been treated. Serena always says what she means doesn't she? The WTA wants a new "face" for various reasons. I've never quite understood what (or who) Henin and Clijsters are saving the WTA from.

If any questioning of Henin's myriad "illnesses" is going to be done it will not be by the "tennis media" in the US.

Evelyn said...

Wow, what an article. When you think of how much the William Sisters have brought to women's tennis, they should be getting accolades all of the time. Yet, people hate to congratulate them when they win. They bring in crowds and ratings for the tour. They are not appreciated, yet they move and give it their all. The hate that is spewed on message boards towards them is downright hateful. They haven't done to anyone but play the game of tennis like the other tennis players. Thanks for a wonderful and true article. I really appreciated reading it. I am so glad that I have lived long enough to know and appreciate such talent.

Dapxin said...

Right from the title,
which grips - in its truism,
to the
engaging, if sublime,
manner this writeup
eloquently describes,
that,
that we know,
modern icons,
of women Tennis,
straight up,
to the conclusions,
and axiomatic inferences,
This is a truly powerful
remark,
on the state of flux;
a lil bit of trance,
the powers of the powers that be-
the WTA;

Where a future is sought,
yet one unfolds,
right on their hands.

Its been a blessing,
to have witnessed,
the duo, make it
and top it - their careers,

You get the sense,
its one, you 'd
really fancy,
re-telling to grandsons,
just how
truly phenomenal,
it was - to have lived,
when Venus + Serena
conquered.

5star post this was...

vw said...

I found it intriguing that a gracious Serena, after winning her semifinal against the Dane by retirement, said that it was good for the WTA to have a "face" like Wozniacki's on the tour.


Craig what do you find intriguing about this? I wonder why Serena said this too. Do you think she was being sarcastic or she is being pushed to say something nice about the golden one. The hype around this gal is amazing. Yes and poor Vera was falling all over and bleeding and no one gave a crap. First she had thigh problems then cramps then abdominal problems.

Craig Hickman said...

vw, have you noticed how Serena has handled the last "face" of the WTA?

I'm intrigued.

kraa said...

So you folks dislike Wozniacki because she is pretty and well liked by mainstream fans? Kind of childish don't you think?

By the way she gets along very well with Williams sisters. Venus even played doubles with her earlier this year.

Dapxin said...

Kraa,
If I wanted to be childish,
I'd have asked "how old are you?"
rather,
I'd say,
re-read that post.
& then the comments.

Karen said...

Yes kraa, who is childish now. Better to be thought a fool and all that other stuff.

Craig Hickman said...

Reading is fundamental.

mznblue said...

Bravo, Craig. An absolutely beautiful post.

oddman said...

Lovely writing and tribute to the Williams sisters, Craig.

rabbit said...

Apologies for keeping away, Craig! What a beautiful post! Agreed 100%. I didn't watch the match where Wozniacki cramped, but rewatching it on youtube, I can't help suspecting that some of it was over-dramatization on Wozniacki's part.

And such a beautiful and fitting ending to the WTA season. Venus and Serena in an exciting final, with Serena winning. Don't ever go away, Serena and Venus (I wish).

Pamela said...

Another first achievement for Serena. Over $6 million in prize money for the year. Both players were banged up, but both put forth the effort to end their last match of the season on a high note.

Graf_sampras said...

i have said many times:


the Greatest Player - man or woman - playing out there today and for the last at least 10 years is


SERENA WILLIAMS.

whether on top of her game - or "in her inconsistent focus" - or coming from "behind" in the tour or matches..or on a roll....whether through her grand slam dominance against TOP QUALITY fellow MAJORS WINNERS and number ones and otherwise - through having matched, challenged and conquered AT THEIR BEST OR NEAR THEIR BEST - the best player of THREE generations

or in the totality of her career as a player in singles and doubles

or as number one, two, or 20 as "the REAL" number so LONG as she is AROUND and her shadow casts over the tour......

SERENA WILLIAMS is the GREATEST player in tennis today and one of the very greatest in all history...man or woman.

today - she is the greatest PLAYER and champion -- MAN OR WOMAN.

she is right up there in my books with navratilova, graf , court.

and against the career of ANY of the greatest male players


she should NOT be called
"the greatest FEMALE champion"


she should be called one of the greatest amon ALL Champions and Tennis players.


I challenge ANYONE in the world of tennis to call her LESS than the greatest TENNIS PLAYER AND CHAMPION of the last 10 years.

Graf_sampras said...

Serena crowned WTA champion in Doha

Eurosport - Sun, 01 Nov 16:54:00 2009
Buzz Up!

Serena Williams celebrated capturing the world number one ranking by beating older sister and defending champion Venus 6-2 7-6(4) in the WTA Championships final in Doha.
Serena Williams of the U.S holds her trophy after defeating her sister Venus Williams in the WTA Tour Championships final, REUTERS - 0
More Stories

* Matchcast: Serena bt Venus
* Latest photos from Doha
* WTA Championship winners
* Wozniacki happy with end to season

A tired-looking Serena delivered a serving master class, dropping just seven points on serve heading into the second set tie-break, as she wore down her equally weary sister in 85 minutes to win her first non-Grand Slam title of the year.

"It feels fantastic. I definitely wasn't expecting to win when I came here because I hadn't been practicing very well," said Serena.

"I kept fighting against a really tough player but Venus kept hitting the ball back. That's never easy and it's really frustrating."

Serena, who needed to better Dinara Safina in the tournament to depose the Russian as world number one, always looked the more likely winner as she battered winners off every ball she could reach to add the WTA Championships to the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles she won earlier in the year.

"It's nice to finally win a tournament other than a Grand Slam," said the 11-times major champion who last won a title outside of season's big four in April 2008.

"I know Venus didn't feel so good today but she just got everything back and it was frustrating. I served really well but you have to serve well against Venus."

With both players sporting heavy strapping on their left leg, Serena on her thigh and Venus on her knee, the match took a while to get going; Venus being forced to save a break point in the very first game before being allowed to hold.

And it was Serena who loosened up first, breaking in the third and seventh games of a very one-sided opening set before serving it out to love when Venus sent a backhand down the line just wide.

It is testament to Venus's intense fighting spirit that she managed to level up the playing field in the second set, providing a much tighter match than Serena might have been expecting after such an easy first set.

But with Serena winning an incredible 87 per cent of the points behind her serve, Venus was always going to struggle to get back into the match - neither player facing a break point in the second set.

Serena twice eased through holds when serving to stay in the match to force the tie-break before racing out to a comfortable 5-1 lead in the breaker at the change of ends.

Venus was not going to hand away her title that easily, however, and produced a series of vicious forehands to get back within a point at 5-4.

But Serena, who should discover on Monday if she is to face further punishment over her outbust at the US Open, quickly recovered her composure firing down a sixth ace to bring up her first championship point before sealing the title with a blistering forehand winner across court and on to the line.
Pippa Davis / Eurosport

Graf_sampras said...

sorry - but anyone that thinks the women's tennis - or even TENNIS - in the last ten years at least could have been as good without the Williamses

is lying.

When they are absent - women's tennis is NEVER as good.

When they are PRESENT (and we mean of course playing sharp)

Women's tennis is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

PERIOD!

Graf_sampras said...

ANY MALE PLAYER that has problems with how to be a great champion?


GO AND SPEND some time with the williamses.

Craig Hickman said...

The ITF needs to move along. Serena deserves no further punishment and in light of recent revelations in the sport, to mete out one on Serena would be a disgrace.

Graf_sampras said...

Craig Hickman said...

The ITF needs to move along. Serena deserves no further punishment and in light of recent revelations in the sport, to mete out one on Serena would be a disgrace.

Sun Nov 01, 02:11:00 PM

=========


AGREED.

the way they focus on her ..../


you'd think they THINK she's GUILTY of Steroids...

they can barely hide their eagerness...if you know what i mean

christina.ward19 said...

Wonderful post, Craig. Very well said.

Graf_sampras said...

''some people say they saved the tour"

in reference to KIM and HENIN coming back?


are they idiots?

BEFORE KIM and BEFORE HENIN -- there were already

Serena Williams and Venus Williams against the BEST of Hingis , Davenport, Capriati

When Henin and Kim began winning their big titles - The Williamses - where everyone was on their best levels - REMAINED the BEST players...

Henin and Kim barely made it through the kind of rough terrain the williamses kept surviving against - and proof of that is THEIR retirement after a MERE FeW SEASONS each ..

i mean -- their respective careers - against serena's or venus'

are each just a FRACTION's worth of what the williamses achieved....

and therefore THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE DECADE and MORE since 1999 -

before, during , and after kim and henin


NO ONE SAVED THE WOMEN"S TENNIS

other than The Williamses.


it has already BEEN SAVED whenever the Williamses play and play their best.

Henin and Kim - good as they are - dramatic as their "comeback" and previous "retirement" are -

are about as much "saviors of WTA" as Elena Dementieva is a 10 time Majors Champion!!

Craig Hickman said...

Graf_Sampras said...

Henin and Kim - good as they are - dramatic as their "comeback" and previous "retirement" are -

are about as much "saviors of WTA" as Elena Dementieva is a 10 time Majors Champion!!

::

This is funny.

Graf_sampras said...

Craig Hickman said...

Graf_Sampras said...

Henin and Kim - good as they are - dramatic as their "comeback" and previous "retirement" are -

are about as much "saviors of WTA" as Elena Dementieva is a 10 time Majors Champion!!

::

This is funny.

Mon Nov 02, 07:24:00 AM

====


I'm glad it's also funny. hehe.

but it's nothing but the TRUTH.


let's list a few of the generally assumed qualities that make for "exciting" or "compelling" tennis:

mine are just a few but people can see what i mean:

1) is there ANY rivalry in the women's tennis that has been as prominent and dominant over that of others' in these many years?

like them or not - Serena and Venus at the top of the heap in majors bring out the sizzling best performances

2) which players - together and singly , compell ALL of SPORTS to pay attention when they play well - or when they don't play well.?

3) which players have forced the retirements of others even in the HEIGHT of their careers? whether it's hingis, henin, kim, davenport, capriati, because NONE could sustain the kind of intensity that the sisters brought to the game?

4) which players have shown the greatest ability to win from BEHIND AND as Fierce Front Runners producing electrifying matches?

5) which players come back from purgatory and then remind everyone ELSE that they are just MICE PLAYING when the CATS ARE AWAY?

6) which players - in achievements alone - have won the majority of Majors between them INCLUDING DOUBLES?

can ANY of these best names of the last decade BOAST of:

1) DOMINANCE in wimbledon
2) DOMINANCE in ALL majors
3) DOMINANCE in the AO
4) DOMINANCE in the USO
5) CONSECUTIVE GRAND SLAM
6) superior HEAD TO HEAD over at least 99 percent of the biggest names in tennis through their careers
7) caused OLD players fall over themselves in showing how JEALOUS they are of the abilities?
8) MADE NAVRATILOVA quip that the "only way to beat Serena is by hitting to her BREAST - because it's a chance to get her uncomfortable?"
9) MADE world numbers one and 2 Hingis and Davenport ADMIT to CONNIVING to Try to "take out A WILLIAMS?"




hell -- we can go on and on .............

Craig Hickman said...

Preach.