Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who does Oudin mean by “some people”?

The US just lost the Fed Cup title to Italy. The US would more than likely have won the Fed Cup title if either of the Williams sisters had played. The US would definitely have won the Fed Cup title if both of the sisters had played. The US needs the Williams sisters. That is the plain truth.

But said truth is not at all simple. And while I would really prefer to treat with the relationship between Serena Williams and the country she happens to represent in international tournaments, I have no choice but to include her sister in the discourse because in all things tennis, they are treated as part of a package deal, the one punished for the errors of the other, the one booed for the non-performance of the other, the one included in a veiled reference to “some people” even though the other made it completely clear from the start that she was not going to play Fed Cup.

From the beginning something went horrifically wrong in the relationship between the tennis establishment and these two African-American sisters. And it’s not entirely the fault of the tennis establishment. From the start the sisters seemed kind of stand-offish, a bit removed, members of a closed society of family who depended on and supported each other but were open to very few outsiders. Richard’s refusal to allow his daughters to play Junior tennis irked more than a few. His refusal to properly acknowledge the role of coaches like Rick Macci to the development of his daughters’ games remains unpardonable for some.

But Tennis USA also made its share of mistakes. It embraced the blond Sharapova so completely you’d swear she wasn’t Russian and playing against the USA for Fed Cup. Sharapova remained a media and corporate darling even after being fined for cheating and illegal coaching. She remained the “It” girl of tennis even after it was clear that her coach was not her father as listed, but Michael Joyce who only recently had the honor of being properly credited for his years of hard labor.

Despite this, I believe that the Williams legacy will be tremendous in the world of tennis. And I believe that they will be lasting inspirations to girls everywhere, not just girls of a darker shade of pale.

I took part in a new tennis clinic yesterday and one of the participants was a talented blonde junior who was there to beat up on the rest of us. During a break I overheard a white woman asking her who her tennis inspirations were. Without missing a beat she replied, “Venus and Serena. Although I kinda prefer Venus because she is tall like me”.

And so I was disappointed to read Oudin’s interview after the US lost at Fed Cup to Italy. In her post-match interview, Oudin was quoted as saying, “For me, this is what I wanted. I wanted to come here. I wanted to play for my country. I don't know, other people choose different things. Some people, I guess, didn't want to play as badly as I did. But I think that the team that we had here really wanted to be here. I think that was what should have happened. I mean, you don't want people here that don't want to be here. Next year we're gonna have people that want to be here again. That's what you want. You don't want people that don't want to be here or play for their country. Even if you lose, if you give it everything you have, then that's the best you can do.”

The “some people” in that extract could only be the Williams sisters. These are the same sisters that Oudin previously credited for inspiring her as a child. How soon we forget.

Oudin is too young in her career to be making these kinds of comments. I get her disappointment. I get that it sucks that while she should be playing tennis for her country, Serena was busy pushing her book in London and talking again about wanting to have an acting career as an action figure. I also get that Oudin is young and not yet practiced in the skills of politics. I get that she may not be privy to the bigger picture, the darker machinations of people who seem motivated only by the desire to once and for all humble Serena Williams. But I really wish Oudin had not said this.


Karen said...

Thats it. That is your take. I was hoping for more but I will comment regardless. I posted elsewhere that in Jamaica we have a saying when a child says something out of turn, it is usually a sign that the child has eavesdropped on big people conversation and therefore should be shunned, i.e. made to sit in a corner and made to ponder the error of its ways. In this situation Oudin is a child putting her foot in big people business. She has absolutely no idea what those 2 girls have done for US tennis, so she opens her mouth and says what she has heard everyone say - they do not have American tennis at heart and they dont want to be there. Oh well. I guess they did not want to be there for their country all those times they played Fed Cup, all those times they went to the Olympics, all those times on the Grand Slam stages perhaps representing themselves but keeping American tennis alive. I guess all of that goes out the window because neither Sister decided to destroy their careers even more by playing with injuries that everyone and their mother witnessed last week in Doha. As Liezel Huber's doubles partner said after the WS beat them at the USO this year. When asked what made the WS so good, she said that they were stronger than them. I guess if they are both strong then that means that they should be able to recover quickly from whatever injuries they are carrying. After all they are strong. Not skilled, not talented, just strong. Hmm. Liezel has made herself team leader of Fed Cup (or have they made her team leader) and I would be surprised if either WS decides to play Fed Cup again. Both Liezel and Cara are from countries that have a very dodgy history when it comes to dealing with people of colour, so I am not too surprised that neither Sister is willing to play Fed Cup right about now. Both ladies are approaching age 30, methinks that Fed Cup is not on their Bucket List.

tennischick said...

sorry to have disappointed you. i like Oudin and i'm hoping that she made this mistake because she is young and still learning. maybe she overheard things or maybe this is locker gossip between all of the teammates. but i wish she had not repeated it.

i believe that Venus is hurt but i said in an earlier piece that i think that Serena could have recovered in time to play. i think that Oudin is not privilege to the policits behind Serena's decision to retract her offer to play. and for that reason as well Oudin should have stayed out of it.

Karen said...

Your points are noted. However, did you see the strapping on Serena's thigh during Doha? At first she started play with kinesio tape and then from her second or third match onward she played with heavy stapping on her thigh. Her ankles were double taped for extra protection as she had rolled her ankle in a match with Sveta, and her wrists were also heavily taped. This girl was being held together with tape and you felt that she could have recovered from Doha, which is played on a hard court, in time to practice on clay against an Italian team whose favourite playing surface is clay. Come on now. Surely you dont believe that. When the USA starts treating Serena and Venus like they are Americans instead of two ladies who accidentally became Americans then I will give statements like Oudin a pass, but until then, no. Oudin has done diddly squat since her USO run. Serena on the other hand has played other tournaments since then. Sometimes people open their mouths and say exactly what they want to say. Oudin does not get a pass on this one.

onur said...

i heard that serena and caroline will play an exhibition match in barbados at the end of this month.. the one who didn't want to play fed cup tie because of her injuries and the one who was shaking in pain because of cramps last week.. and they are always telling that the season is long.. resting? getting some treatment? helloo?

a-tennislover said...

If Serena had jumped in on her own to play Fed Cup, then all would say she is trying to steal other players' thunder. The ones that got the US to the finals should be able & ready for the FC finals.

The US doesn't show Serena a lot of love. So, she should not be expected to run when they call. She could have handled the situation better and waited till she was sure she could/could not play. Perhaps she just didn't want to play, given some things that have happened lately and the heat she has been taking (deserved or not.)

US/WTA has to have more than just 2 players to count on to win. Don't blame Serena, and certainly don't blame Vee, since she said a while ago she would not/could not play.

You can't hate and have your cake too.

Karen said...

Thanks for that tennis lover. I find it unbelievable that people are dragging her over the coals for this. What was she supposed to do single handedly win a Fed Cup. Damn, she is good but not that good. Somehow I dont think we will hear Serena's response to this. She will treat it the way it deserves, that is, crickets chirping.

Anonymous said...

Great Post! I agree, Oudin should have kept her mouth closed and Serena shoud do the same, that is, crickets chirping!


tennischick said...

thanks for all of your comments. it's always good to have a nice discussion going. and as a writer I am always sincerely appreciative that folks grant me the honor of reading what I write. again, thank you.

yes Serena was heavily taped. and yes Caroline was cramping. but these women are fit and healthy and can recover faster than you or I. let's judge them by the standards for professional sportspersons, not your average country club hack.

I still believe that Serena could have played Fed Cup. in fact, she initially agreed to do so -- despite being strapped down and taped up -- and then changed her mind for reasons which I believe I understand and which I actually support. and I completely agree with Onur. a shorter season will only mean that the top players will have more time to play exo matches for which they will be handsomely paid. it's the bottomfeeders that will be hurt by any change to the calendar.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the better websites and comment responses that I have experienced regarding the WS. The hate that is written regarding the WS is over the top on other sites. Yes, Serena did not participate in FC but I agree with the other poster-those that participated in FC all year long are the ones that should play. There would have been unhappy folks had SW played knocking out the other US players. The WS are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The SW are only treated as americans when it is convenient.


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