Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Of course tennis isn't her favorite game

Serena Williams said, publicly, in early January, that she doesn't love tennis.
Gordon Smith, USTA executive director and chief operating officer, publicly expressed his disappointment in the comments at a meeting in Atlanta not too long afterwards.
The article made this comment about the situation: "It's not often you hear the USTA speaking candidly about current players."
First, it's not surprising that Smith made an exception for the younger Williams. Serena is continually drawing criticism for her comments--especially when they are not in keeping with the parochial views of the tennis establishment.
Second--of course she doesn't love the game of tennis. It's a hard life. The GF noted, when we were at the Australian Open, sweltering in the stands (which were at least ten degrees cooler than the on-court temperature) that the life of a tennis professional is not all that glamorous. It may look glamorous but it's a lot of travel, a lot of physical challenges and outright physical pain, odd social situations, not a lot of stability, a ton of pressure no matter where you fall in the rankings, crazy heat, separation from family, dealing with the business side of the game, etc.
Serena Williams has had to negotiate all of this--and more--like the racism that still exists in the tennis world, and the world at large, of course. She has not subscribed wholeheartedly to the rhetoric about what and how a professional tennis player's life should be. And I think that ticks people off.
We rarely hear professional athletes discuss--while they are in their playing days--the negatives of their sports and the lifestyles their sports demand. We hear about it afterwards: Andre Agassi went no holds barred in his memoir. Former professional football players have been speaking out about the health issues they have that were and continue to be ignored, for the most part.
Are people worried that Serena is lifting the curtain up and revealing some kind of awful truth about the world of professional sports: that for all the money (if you are one of the best of the best) and the models (if you're Tom Brady) and fame, sometimes it really stinks and it wears on an individual. I don't think she should be called out for saying that out loud.

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