Saturday, July 14, 2018 at 7:39 PM

Wimbledon: Serena Lost. It’s Patronizing BS to Say She Won.

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Despite all the hype, if not the expectation, Serena Williams (36) did not even come close to winning this Wimbledon final. Angelique Kerber (30) of Germany defeated her handily in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.

In the eyes of many watching on Saturday, Williams was still a winner. … [M]others who know what it feels like to come back from maternity leave … were quick to tweet how much Williams just being there meant to them.

(Yahoo! June 14, 2018)

I appreciate mothers of the world thinking they could relate. But there’s a simple reason why Williams recovered so quickly to compete again at this level: Unlike most mothers, she spent most of her life as a super-fit professional athlete; specifically, as one fully accustomed to training her body to recover from all manner of stress.

Mind you, I wanted Serena Williams to win this match as much as any fan could. But I’m calling double fault on sports fans and analysts alike who are making excuses for her, citing complications that attended child birth 10 months ago:

  • This ignores that Williams would not have been competing if she were not in shape to win. Indeed, I can cite her antic participation in last month’s French Open to support this fact. (I duly commented in “French Open: Nadal Questions Equal Pay. Williams Ducks Sharapova,” June 14, 2018)
  • This belittles the superior play Kerber displayed, which duly earned her this title. Not to mention that Williams managed to defeat many younger and seemingly fitter players to make it to this final match.

So hail Serena, as I do, for still playing such competitive Tennis at an age when most of her peers have long-since retired. But please don’t deify her as some patron saint of mothers who are competing as top professional athletes.

Unfortunately, Williams played into this deification by making a show of dedicating her run at this tournament “to all the moms out there.” But she’s hardly a pioneer in this respect. For example:

Clijsters [had] daughter Jada Elle in 2008. But then the Belgian returned to the tour in 2009, winning the US Open in just her third tournament back. …

She remains the only WTA player to win more majors with children in tow than without, picking up the 2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open for four total career majors.

(Baseline, April 20, 2017)

This was Williams’s second tournament back. Therefore, she could still match Clijsters’s maternal feat by winning this year’s final Grand Slam, the US Open in early September.

I just hope she’s not taking too much consolation in the outpouring of so much patronizing praise. Not least because it smacks of the kind of consolation Tiger Woods is taking these days for just making the cut at his golf tournaments.

Indeed, like Woods, Williams could become resigned to playing on her laurels, continually pleasing fans and earning praise based solely on the fading hope that she will go all the way in the next tournament and finally recapture old glory.

Serena Williams came back from pregnancy to make it to the finals of Wimbledon at almost 37 years old. That’s greatness. Despite the loss, she’s still the GOAT.

— Everette Taylor (@Everette) July 14, 2018

She was aiming to tie the all-time record in Grand Slam titles in tennis just *FOUR* events after her return from giving birth & having life threatening birth complications… A living Legend!

— WTA Scores (@Scores_WTA) July 14, 2018

If Clijsters received this kind of praise after her first two losses after having a child, she might never have won another Grand Slam title. Significantly, she retired in 2012 at the relatively young age of 29.

But I hasten to point out that Williams clearly expects more of herself than her fans do:

Within an hour of her defeat, Williams had turned her focus to just that, explaining, ‘I’m already deciphering what I need to improve on, what I need to do, what I did wrong, why I did it wrong, how I can do better — that whole madness that goes on in my mind.’

(Washington Post, June 14, 2018)

This is why I retain a glimmer of hope that she will emulate Clijsters by winning another Grand Slam or two with baby in tow.

Related commentaries:
French Open

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