I’ve decided that I am not going to the US Open this year. A myriad of factors played a part in this decision, not the least of which is the thought of going through last year’s hassle to get tickets. But when I heard that Serena had withdrawn, well that just nailed it. I’ll pass on this year.
Mind you I’ve already taken the time off work. So I guess Labor Day weekend will find me glued to the TV as I watch the rest of the field breathing sighs of relief because the main weapon, the Alpha Bitch as it were, has decided to pass in favor of allowing her foot to heal.
But even if Serena were 100% healthy, I would totally understand any decision on her part to forego Flushing Meadows this year. Already, last year’s debacle is all that tennis commentators can talk about. They’ve spent the entire summer warming up their vocal chords so that they can properly trash Serena when the time comes. I am already sick of hearing about her blow-up against the lineswoman. I can only imagine that she must feel worse than I do. Or maybe she doesn’t give a crap and thinks that the commentators can all piss off. And I wouldn’t blame her a bit if that was her attitude. It kind of is mine.
What is particularly disgusting about the warm up to trash Serena is that it seems to be spearheaded by American commentators. Whenever I read references to last year’s debacle, they are invariably written by American writers. It’s her own people who seem to be spearheading the movement to drag Serena down. The incident has morphed into a microcosmic representation of everything that is right and also wrong with American tennis. The best player in the world is a woman that her own people have difficulty embracing. How pathetic is that.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect folks to behave as if nothing happened last year. But as I am watching Nadal vs. Bhagdatis last evening – a thrilling match in which Bhagdatis exposed and exploited every vulnerability inherent in the Nadal hard court game – the last thing I expected to hear was a comment about Serena’s behavior last year. But I did. And when I am watching Vera Zvonareva bravely coming from behind to trash Kim Clijsters at the Rogers Cup, I do not expect to have to listen to cutaway comments about Serena’s behavior last year. But I did. It’s all everyone can talk about.
And if I were Serena Williams, I too would take the decision that it’s just not worth it. Let them eat fluff. Let fans settle for the likes of Caroline Wozniacki and Shahar Peer. Let them spend hundreds of dollars to see if Melanie Oudin can make another run. After all, with both Serena and Justine Henin absent, the field is suddenly wide open. You know Sharapova is already chomping at the bit.
Understand that my support of Serena’s decision to withdraw is not intended in any way to question the genuineness of her injury. Serena herself has posted twitter photos of herself dancing the hula hoop while wearing her foot brace. Stepping on glass can do serious damage. I hope she fully recovers.
My support of her decision to withdraw is based more on an instinctive concern for her safety. I do not want to see Serena’s relationship with the US Open begin to sour. Or to make my point more clearly, I do not want Flushing Meadows to become the next Indian Wells for Serena. That would be deeply unfortunate. But there is a risk, at least this year, that it could. There is a chance that some fans, egged on by all these months of trash talk, primed by this negative build-up, may treat this like a Jugaloo event and treat Serena the way they did Tila Tequila. Sorry, but my fave deserves better than that.
Understand clearly that I am not condoning Serena’s loss of control last year. I didn’t at the time and I am not doing so now. At the time, I let her have it. Having done so, I let it go, as everyone should. But listening to these commentators, you’d swear that the way to sell tickets to the US Open is by trash-talking Serena. It’s like they’re priming people for another explosion. Who needs that crap?
And you know what else is unfair? You’d think that by now someone would have put out a Hawk Eye video proving that Serena had actually foot-faulted. After all, we’ve seen replays of the moment when she lost control and accosted the diminutive lineswoman. It’s one of the first videos to pop up on YouTube if you do a search for Grand Slams. So how come there are no replays of her foot actually touching the line as she served that crucial point? How come no one has thought to bring forth proof that the lineswoman was correct in her call? Possibly because there is no damn proof?
One of the things I like most about Serena Williams is her relentless fighting spirit. Serena has never been like the more introverted Venus who seems to suck up unfair treatment and chews the inside of her mouth instead of expressing her views. With Serena you know exactly where you stand. Serena can be sweet but she can also be a fighter. And when you know that the entire tennis establishment seems to be gunning for you, and that the movement against you is actually led by your own people, well then it’s time to paraphrase Tyra and tell them all to kiss your big black behind.