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A Question of Class

As an American living overseas, I’m exposed to another perspective of my compatriots.  Although media is supposed to be objective, we all know the reality of humanity and even the most committed and honest reporter will expose their inner feelings in the process of a broadcast.

This applies to sports reporting as well.  Growing up in Northwest Ohio, I could have listened to The Game on two different radio stations and, although the score would be the same, I would likely have a completely different perspective on what was transpiring on the field based on which station I listened to at a particular moment.Tennis is the sport of fashion here in Belgium.  Ever since Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin hit the rankings, there are few sports that everyone in the country can and wants to talk about.  Even national pasttimes like football (soccer) and cycling take a backseat to these two women.

I just finished watching the semi-final match between Justine Henin and Venus Williams.  Of course, I saw it on local (Belgian) TV and got their perspective of it.  Henin has done something special this year on her way to the final by beating Serena in the quarters and now Venus in the semis.  The only other time that both sisters were beat in the same grand slam by the same player was in 2001 when Martina Hingis pulled the double only to lose to Jennifer Capriati in the final.

After beating Serena in the quarters a press conference took place.  Serena was there physically, but mentally she was somewhere else.  She made comments about Henin being lucky and criticized her own play without really giving credit to the world number 1.

History shows that there has been no love lost between Serena and Justine since 2003 when in the French Open semifinals, Henin held up her hand to stop play on a key point.  Serena had just missed her first serve and wanted to play it again. The chair umpire didn’t call for a replay and Justine just stood there, keeping silent.  Serena was livid as she went on to lose the match.  The pro-Henin croud took great pleasure in cheering every Williams’ mistake and booed her off the court after the match.

Nonetheless, tennis is a “gentleman’s sport” and this is supposed to apply to the ladies as well.  When Serena refused to give credit to a player who has knocked her out of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year she discredited herself, her family and even her country.  Like it or not, what Serena and Venus do reflects on America as far as the world’s press is concerned.  It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

The locals have been exceptionally hard on Serena for her comments, but it seems the rest of the world is following suit.  She has been criticized heavily by even the American media who are probably tiring of the ongoing, Williams’ saga.

They might have been good for the sport when they arrived, but the Williams family is starting to prove themselves borish with Daddy’s history of getting thrown out of tournaments, Mama’s ill-advised statements and both girls bringing out their trash talk whenever they feel a certain player is threatening their legacy.  

What is especially sad is that their own performance on the court over the years is more than enough to secure their place in the archives of the sport and everytime they pull one of these stunts, they merely lower their stock. Since they are the only women’s players from the U.S. on the radar, they make America look bad too.

There is an irony as there seems to be a lot more personal attacks in the women’s game than on the men’s side.  Federer isn’t human anyways, but even when losing the French Open (again) to Rafael Nadal, he gives his interview fully complimenting Nadal for bringing his “A-game” and talks about having to come back the next year still having the hunger to win the only Grand Slam to elude him.  He tears Roddick up on the court, but is a completely respectful to the man and Roddick to him.  

The women’s game, on the other hand, has had more than its share of controversy.  One of the most infamous incidents was when Martina Hingis called Amelie Mauresmo “Half a man already”.  This statement was directly referenced to Mauresmo’s lesbian partnership as well as her physical build.  Maria Sharapova’s father is as bad if not worse than Papa Williams and who can forget the stabbing of Monica Seles by a Steffi Graf fan back in 1993?  The men’s game has not seen these kinds of dramas since the 70’s when McEnroe and Connors were giving chair umpires headaches.

For the Williams sisters, being top players means press time and these ladies are making millions to play this game.  They need to respect that by giving credit to the lady who right now is the best player in the world and just got done beating both of ’em in straight sets.

By Flemish American

I am an American who has lived in Belgium for 20 years. I found myself out of touch with American sports for years and then the Internet re-introduced me to my favorite past-times. Now, I even get back to the States more often and I have a network to see most events I want to. Life is good.

One reply on “A Question of Class”

Hey Craig It was a good read.

I completely understand why Justin Henin and Kim Clijsters are so over in Belgium.

It’s the same scenario here in the Philippines with Manny Pacquiao.



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