Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tweeting on Tennis...or not

This week comes news that the William sisters are back on top. They are the #’s 1 and 2 in the world of tennis. As it should be. With 8475 points after only 15 tournaments, Serena sits comfortably atop the world rankings, unthreatened by anyone in the top ten even if she does not defend her points in France. With 6386 points, Venus is a longshot for overtaking the top spot if she wins Roland Garros; in other words, she's a somewhat distant # 2, separated from the # 3 Caroline Wozniacki by some 750 points.

Mind you, Wozniacki had to play 25 tournaments to Venus’ 17 in order to claw her way to # 3. How truly pathetic is that? Is it any wonder that Wozniacki’s body is falling apart? How can any coach or trainer who truly cares about his player allow such a demandingly cruel schedule? And then of course they will be the first to turn around and complain that the tour is too long and that tennis needs an off-season. No what tennis needs are fewer rapacious coaches and trainers who push their players to the brink. But I digress.

Probably the best part of this development for the Williams sisters is that they will no longer appear on the same side of any draw. They will either get eliminated along the way, or, more than likely, will meet in the finals of any tournament they both enter.

Assuming of course that they are still interested in tennis. Without direct access to the Sisters to question them personally about their actual focus on tennis, I decided to do a quasi empirical study by looking at the amount of tennis content on the first two pages of their Twitter sites. Not too scientific, I concur, but a far sight better than just going on my own opinions. To the extent that Twitter captures at least some of the content of an individual’s mental activity, let’s see what the Sisters have been up to.

Let’s start with Venus. Venus’ twitter page currently features a lovely kente cloth background with a smiling photo of the tennis player and her gorgeous white Havanese toy dog named Harry. And of the 39 Twitter entries posted between May 9th @ 6:00am and May 19th @ 3:00pm, about nine make direct or indirect references to tennis.

My favorite tennis-related tweets from Venus involve her acknowledgment of the sacrifices demanded of a professional’s life; : “I'm the only dummy that wants to go to work instead of party!” and, “Going around Paris after practice and training, that always comes first of course!

Judging from this admittedly scant information, I concluded that Venus is still very focused on tennis. She continues as always to have other interests, but the dedication to tennis seems clear by her willingness to make emotional sacrifices on behalf of the sport. It may seem minor but it is very important for young fans and other tennis aspirants to know that a tennis player’s life does not only consist of eating in expensive French restaurants, but also of unpalatable carbo-loading to stock up for practice the following day. Venus’ tweets beautifully capture this balance.

Now to Serena. Of the sisters, she is by far the more prolific tweeter. She also wins any popularity contest hands down, with almost three times the followers to her sister Venus. But of the 40 tweets posted by Serena between May 16th @ 4:32pm and May 23rd @ 10:15am (my time), not a single one references tennis. She talks a lot about her spread for Harper’s Bazaar, about staying up to watch Smallville, and about her dog’s stinky poops. But tennis? It’s not there. You’d swear that the only reason she is in France is to shoot the spread for Harper’s Bazaar. Certainly the photographs on her site confirm that her watches, bangles, and handbags seem to really hold her interest.

I must admit that I find this to be a bit disheartening. Don’t get me wrong, I think that both Venus and Serena have every right to lead balanced lives with other interests. I do not begrudge them something I would want for myself. But the professional life of a tennis player is so brief that I have also always felt that it was worth it, when you have their level of talent, to make the necessary sacrifices.

I certainly applaud the assertiveness and maturity with which Venus in particular has embraced standing up for the rights of women tennis players. And clearly they have already broken down innumerable barriers for players of color. But as the # 1 player in the world, Serena could do so much more. If only she were interested. 


Amit said...

Very nice post.

So what would you like Serena to do more for tennis? I was just wondering if you had any concrete examples. I am not disagreeing with you but just wanted to see what your thoughts as to what she could do.

tennischick said...

Very fair question. In fact I thought of this myself and decided that it would make a good follow up column. Look out for it. And thanks for your comments. :-)

Kim at TennisFixation said...

Maybe Serena's "Journey to Africa" special will show us a better, more role model-like side to her. I keep wondering does anyone really still watch Smallville?

happygeek said...

great choice of photo!