August 16, 2009

Greg Couch: Serena's Sorry Charade continues...

Greg Couch (of Tennis Fanhouse) has written another article addressing Serena and her lack of interest in winning non-majors. As a fan, I find a few statements within the article to be somewhat true, statements that have been dancing around in my head also. What is shocking is that several people have stated that it is obvious at times that she does not want to be on the court, citing her body language and disconnect in recent tournaments. Even going as far to say that she is only showing up to avoid being fined by the WTA. Here's the article. Leave comments letting me know what you think. Remember, it's ok to have an opinion, even if it differs from that of the masses.

Serena Williams is becoming a fraud. There is no other way to put it. She is throwing matches. Tanking. She lost to Sybille Bammer Thursday at the Cincinnati Open 7-5, 6-4, committing 44 unforced errors. That's two per game. "Anyone could have beaten me today,'' she said.That could actually be Serena's motto during non-majors. This is getting embarrassing, and it would be nice if someone else would hold her accountable. No one wants to anger the golden goose, I guess.But come on. She has lost to Bammer, Samantha Stosur, Francesca Schiavone, Patty Schnyder and Klara Zakopalova. That's just since April. Has she lost it? Is Serena just fading or slumping? Ha! No way. Serena Williams is the most talented women's tennis player of all time. She has won three of the past four majors. She is great. Forty-four unforced errors -- that's no accident. That's Serena not bothering. Against Bammer she ran hard enough, but also moped around and seemed completely disinterested.

When I say she's tanking, that's not to say she goes into the matches looking to lose, but rather that she's just not interested enough to put up a fight. It's a mental throwing of the match by neglect. I guess that's slightly different than intentionally losing, but not by much. She has not won a tournament, other than a major, in 17 months. She says she's focusing on majors, and we've surely heard that before from star athletes. We heard it from Andre Agassi at the end of his career, when his back was so bad that he could barely lift is feet over the paint on the baseline when running down forehands. But this is not only a gearing-up and attempting to peak at majors, but also a complete disappearing act in non-majors. Serena, you can at least try in non-majors, while taking your show around the country and the world to the little people, the fans.

They have been sold a bill of goods with Serena. They are marketed to, and pitched on the idea of, coming to see Serena, but that's not Serena showing up. It's a bait-and switch. And Serena's lack of effort is only serving to promote the idea that the only shows worth watching in tennis are the majors. Contrast that to the men's tour, where, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal this week, all eight of the world's top eight players reached the quarterfinals. Here are some numbers. In the past 17 months, Williams has played in 15 non-majors without a win. Her match record in those tournaments is just 27-15. Since April, she has played five non-majors, losing three of them in the first round. Her record in those events is 3-5. Meanwhile, Dinara Safina, far inferior to Serena as a player, is ranked No. 1, ahead of Serena, simply because she shows enough respect for the tour and fans to try hard and earn computer points everywhere.

There is no way for Serena to defend going 3-5 in non-majors. No way. She mentioned something about having a cold in Cincinnati, for pete's sake.Go ahead and call me a Serena hater. I've heard it enough. And maybe that's why you don't hear the truth anywhere else, because pressure can work. But I don't hate Serena at all. I see her as an incredibly talented, strong, smart, beautiful woman. And that's about the ultimate mix for promoting a sport, providing a role model for girls everywhere, and amassing amazing records. If you care. If you respect those things.

A reader wrote me with something I had never considered: Maybe Serena is losing in non-majors because they require you to play every day. In majors, you play every other day. And maybe she's just not in good enough shape to play every day. That rings true. But if Serena cared enough, she would get in shape to play every day. "I've been training so hard,'' she said. "So this is a little disappointing. But I hope my hard work pays off eventually, because I have been working really, really hard.'' Oh, please. Someone did ask her the other day about what she's working on to help her win some regular tour-level events. Williams bristled:"I'm sorry, but I feel like winning Grand Slams is just as important as winning. . .and they're on the tour. I play on the WTA Tour while I win them, so for me [a major's] a tour event. I've won one just recently a couple weeks ago.'' Yes, at Wimbledon. She was fantastic. People in Cincinnati bought tickets to see that brilliance.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Couch’s statements to a point. The opinion that she doesn’t win non-majors because it is played everyday is a ridiculous one, since last year she won Bangalore, Miami and Charleston back to back. She might have 11 slams, but her other 23 titles are non-slams.

Serena seemed like she tried this year. She lost in Sydney to Dementieva, having saved match points against Stosur and Wozniacki in previous rounds, days before the Australian open (Serena has been accused taking a week or two off before slams). She withdrew in France because of a knee inflammation, lost to her sister in Dubai and made it to the Miami final, where she was injured, and lost in Andalucia as a result. She lost in the first round of Rome, but consider that she had lost to Schnyder in their last two meetings on that surface and she seemed particularly upset about it. She withdrew in Madrid citing a knee injury again, and struggled in the first round of the French open.

Now could Serena’s work ethic take a talking to, I think so, tremendously, however there is no reason for Couch to malign her unnecessarily. After all, Serena’s work ethic, disinterest, and on-and-off again fitness is nothing new. It’s been the same Serena that started on the tour 15 years ago. As to playing tennis because of the fame and celebrity, yes Serena likes them both, but playing tennis like the pros do requires heart and some love of the game, because it is a daily grind. Just ask Kournikova.

Sharing Cherie said...

She just hasn't found her stride in non majors if you ask me. Remember before she got injured she was consistently either SF/F/. Then, after Miami (Where she got injured), things changed. Yeah she won Wimbledon, but hadn't had a good showing in non major events for some time at the point of Stanford/Cincinatti.

I don't think it's playing everyday either because as Anonymous mentioned, she's done it before. Had a 16 match win streak in 2008. She is capable of it. She just has to psyche herself up for it. And she will. Serena is a notoriously slow starter and she's having a slow start to the to the summer hardcourt season.

Take a look at the pics of her working out on her site. She looks amazing.

Anonymous said...

OK, I don't get these articles where people say how great she is on one hand but on the other hand, she don't try hard enough in the non majors. I think some of you people should encourage her instead of trying to put her in a box, because one day she will lay her racquet down, and she will move on to what ever. Her ranking is higher than some people that grind on the tour, and it does catch up with them, Safina may be doing her thing now, but even if she stay fit, can she keep this up for another four or five years, just to keep her ranking at number 1. Even if Serena just plays part time, its better than some number one players just announcing one day I quit, take me off the books, out of the computer, what ever, I am finished. I know Justin was very dedicated to the game, and her training she took serious, so, before you start passing judgment, maybe this is Serena's way of prolonging her career, no matter what Serena does, no ones happy, but seems like to me, she is very happy with the choices she is making, so why can't you be happy for her. There are plenty of players on tour to watch, they play week in and week out, so why gripe about what one great player is doing, instead of what effort the other players are putting in. (IMOP)

solace said...

fantastic blog.

monika said...

It seems that no matter what Serena does, she will never satisfy everybody especially people like Greg Couch. I also get the feeling that Greg has never played tennis in his life. I strongly believe that Serena has at least 8 good years to play as long as she takes care of her body and don't overwork herself. With the rate that Safina is playing, she will retire early and that is something that non-tennis players can't get in their heads. Tennis athletes are remembered for how many slams they have won not overall titles.