Ser­ena Wil­liams de­serves lit­tle ten­nis love

Calgary Herald - - EDITORIAL - LI­CIA COR­BELLA lcor­bella@post­media.com

Ser­ena Wil­liams doesn’t de­serve any ten­nis love for her melt­down last Satur­day at the United States Open fi­nal. Sadly, she is get­ting lots of it.

Caught as she was in a tem­per tantrum born of en­ti­tle­ment (like so many ten­nis aces be­fore her) Wil­liams in­sin­u­ated that sex­ism by the ten­nis bu­reau­cracy on the whole and the um­pire, Car­los Ramos, in par­tic­u­lar played a role in her be­ing docked a game against Naomi Osaka, caus­ing her to lose the match. Wil­liams ar­gued that her bad be­hav­iour should have been over­looked and many com­men­ta­tors have chival­rously come to this dam­sel’s de­fence. That, in it­self, is sex­ist.

The de­fence of bad man­ners is a se­ri­ous threat to the or­derly run­ning of our so­ci­ety and is it any won­der? Look at the daily trans­gres­sions against hu­man de­cency com­ing from U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who seems to start vir­tu­ally ev­ery morn­ing with some vile tweets call­ing peo­ple he dis­agrees with hor­ri­ble names.

How­ever, just be­cause petu­lant, spoiled brat male ten­nis play­ers have got­ten away with worse be­hav­iour on the pro tour doesn’t mean it was wrong for Wil­liams to first lose a point and then a game for her ten­nis tantrums.

Here’s some back­ground: Early in the sec­ond set, Wil­liams was given a warn­ing be­cause her coach, Pa­trick Mouratoglou, was caught mo­tion­ing for her to move for­ward. Mouratoglou ad­mit­ted that he in­deed was coach­ing from the stands. He was caught and Wil­liams was warned.

Later on, Wil­liams lost her serve, got mad at her­self and smashed her racket, which is an au­to­matic code vi­o­la­tion, which led to the loss of a point since it came on the back of an ear­lier warn­ing.

Wil­liams started ar­gu­ing with the um­pire, who had no choice but to re­move a point from Wil­liams’s score be­cause he had al­ready warned her. Her ar­gu­ing was fu­tile.

This is where it got ugly. This gazil­lion­aire ten­nis player — per­haps the great­est fe­male player of all time — let the lowly um­pire have it. She called him a thief and asked him to apol­o­gize for fol­low­ing the rules. It’s true that he could have given Wil­liams a soft warn­ing over the coach­ing vi­o­la­tion and there­fore would not have had to re­move a point when she broke her racket, but he couldn’t re­verse his ear­lier warn­ing.

Wil­liams re­fused to move on. Ramos even­tu­ally gave Wil­liams a third code vi­o­la­tion, which cost her an en­tire game. Osaka went on to win, which was her first ma­jor ti­tle. At least Wil­liams showed a lot of class with how she treated Osaka, who was also very gra­cious.

All sorts of male com­men­ta­tors (and some fe­male ones too) have come to Wil­liams’s de­fence, say­ing men have been get­ting away with such ap­palling be­hav­iour in ten­nis for decades and women are held to a higher stan­dard. True enough.

Just be­cause men get away with be­hav­iour that vi­o­lates the rules doesn’t mean women should. The rules should be evenly ap­plied to both men and women.

At least, how­ever, Ser­ena is seek­ing par­ity. Her sis­ter, Venus Wil­liams fought and won for women ten­nis play­ers to be paid the same as the men at Wim­ble­don and ev­ery other ten­nis event. The only prob­lem is women only have to win two out of three games while the men must win three out of five at Grand Slam events.

Just last week, the women’s match lasted less than an hour and the men’s was al­most four hours. How is it fair that they get paid the same? Ten­nis is ac­tu­ally one field that dis­cred­its women’s right­ful striv­ing for equal­ity. It in­di­cates that women want more than they de­serve, which is not true.

Back in 2005, Venus at­tended the board meet­ing of the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis and Croquet Club, which runs Wim­ble­don, and asked the mem­bers to close their eyes and imag­ine be­ing a lit­tle girl who works as hard as any fella to “get to this stage, and you’re told you’re not the same as a boy ...”

Later that year, Roger Fed­erer won the men’s Wim­ble­don cham­pi­onship game, col­lect­ing $1.13 mil­lion. Venus Wil­liams won her game and a cheque for $1.08 mil­lion. That was more than fair. In 2007, Wim­ble­don caved to the pres­sure and started pay­ing women the same as the men, some­thing the U.S. Open had been do­ing since 1998. Lit­tle girls can count. They know women play shorter matches than men. It’s sex­ist.

Un­til women ten­nis play­ers start play­ing the best out of five games to win, they shouldn’t be paid the same as the men. Women have as much stamina as men. The women’s marathon is 42 kilo­me­tres long, just like the men’s.

Women have won the gru­elling 1,850-kilo­me­tre Idi­tarod dog sled race in Alaska. Surely, they can play the best out of five games rather than just the best out of three. That would have given Ser­ena a chance to ac­tu­ally rally back and beat Osaka.

Per­haps the Wil­liams sis­ters should start fight­ing for that. Now that would be some­thing wor­thy of ten­nis love.

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