Update 3/7/21–I’m looking at this post two and a half years later. Although I still agree with the general substance of what I wrote, the tone is much harsher than I feel now. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a bit more measured in my response. Mary Carillo said it much better: “At her very best — and she is very often at her very best — I respect and admire Serena beyond measure. She is so powerful. She’s an important voice. She’s a ferocious competitor. But at her very worst, as she was on this night, she acts like a bully.” But Serena doesn’t get a do-over of that night, and I suppose I shouldn’t get a do-over either. I’m not editing the post, other than acknowledging some chagrin here.
Well, guys, I’m going out on a limb here. I wrote this draft and then decided it was too controversial to post. But then I saw a longer opinion piece on Tennis.com, making many of the same points, although at greater length and better explained than I was able to do here. Check out the Tennis.com piece if you can, and then let’s discuss in the comment section…
Yes, you’re the greatest of all time. That’s been established beyond question, regardless of whether you overtake Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record.
And it’s true the chair umpire erred in not giving you a verbal warning before issuing the final code violation that cost you the game. He didn’t have to give you a warning–you were well over the line–but with so much at stake, he should have. Maybe there was even sexism involved.
But honestly. Enough about being a mom. We know, we know. You’ve told us over and over again. Your bizarre argument to the chair umpire (“I have never cheated! I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her!”) was a painfully transparent play for the crowd’s sympathy, reminiscent of Jimmy Connors’s blatant crowd-baiting in the 1991 U.S. Open quarterfinals (“I’m out here playing my butt off at 39 years old, and you’re doing that?!”)
You’re not the world’s first mom, nor the first working mom, or even the first mom to play professional tennis. Enough with the empowerment catsuits and “Mama knock you out” commercials. It’s time to get over yourself and just play the damn game.
You’ve been playing professional tennis for half your life. You’re well aware that a coaching violation doesn’t mean the player is cheating. It means the coach was sending signals. You know this. You created a circus about it because you were losing and because you knew you could rally the crowd to your side.
Maybe you didn’t see your coach’s signals. But if he did it on Saturday, he surely has done it before in the six years he has been your coach. The fact that he sends you signals cannot be news to you, your histrionics notwithstanding. Yes, other coaches do it. And sometimes they’re caught. It has happened to Nadal. This time it was you. Even multi-Slam champions aren’t exempt from the rules.
In the process of creating your sideshow, you robbed Naomi Osaka of the joy of her first Grand Slam title. And then you got to play the magnanimous loser, swallowing your pride and pleading for the boos to stop. That’s big of you.
Penalty or no penalty, Naomi Osaka was going to beat you. She was already up a break–all she had to do was hold her serve. After the game penalty and your screaming and pointing and crying, with the boos raining down on her, she not only held her serve, but did it with an ace and two service winners–in her very first Grand Slam final and against her idol, the greatest player of all time.
It was quite a show. What a shame you had to ruin it for her.
P.S. If you think it’s tough dealing with a chair umpire you can’t bend to your will, wait until little Alexis gets older. Now might be a good time to start working on some anger management because nothing will push your buttons like a teenager.
Okay, guys–I know you have something to say on this topic! Let me have it! (But keep it clean and respectful, please! I don’t want to have to issue any code violations! 😄)