Monday, September 17, 2018

The Sascha Bajin Factor

At Wimbledon 2018, upon being told by a reporter that Madison Keys had said that it must be tough to be Serena because everyone always plays their best against her, Serena offered this elucidating response, clarifying the kind of pressure that she faces in every single match: 

“I’m glad someone admitted that. Of course Madison does. She’s just so smart and so on it, but yeah, every single match I play, whether I’m coming back from a baby or a surgery or it doesn’t matter, these young ladies bring a game that I’ve never seen before. It’s interesting because I don’t even scout as much because when I watch them play is a totally different game than when they play me. It’s what makes me great. I always play everyone at their greatest, so I have to be greater.”

Of all the cumulative sources of pressure affecting Serena during that match against Osaka, I believe that one of the unacknowledged sources was the courtside presence of Sascha Bajin, her former hitting partner, coach, and confidant.  I cannot imagine the pressure that Serena must have felt knowing that seated close by was the man who, for eight years came to know her game the best, and who, for the second time, had coached a young woman in the tactics of beating her.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The pressure of being the GOAT

I’ve read a lot of the commentary following Serena Williams’ meltdown on Arthur Ashe court in the finals of the US Open.  The opinions I respected the least were the ones that began with a variant of “I don’t normally follow tennis but…” All of those opinions favored Serena, using heavy doses of whataboutism to basically argue that if men can get away with bad behavior, women should too.

It reminded me of the way so many (white) women bent and twisted themselves out of shape to white-wash Asia Argento’s back story in order to elevate her to (undeserved) leadership of the #MeToo movement.  Never mind that Tarana Burke started this movement way back in 2006.  It was incredible to me the way (white) women wrapped themselves in layers of denial and delusion to accept Ms. Argento’s illegitimate leadership.

Something similar is being done with the events on Arthur Ashe court so that Serena Williams can be recast as a feminist and activist hero.  This was not about a woman losing gracelessly under pressure – no, it was a feminist issue!