Saturday, September 08, 2018

HOMELAND SLAM: Serena, Osaka and the Fact that Many Things Can Be True at Once

So here I sit, a few hours removed from the U.S. Open women's final, and I am not going to be able to sleep unless I write this, so here we are. I want to say that there are many things that can be true at once without canceling each other out. Let us talk about those things now, please:

1. Naomi Osaka played some typa match: Six aces -- five more than her opponent, who has won 23 Grand Slam titles. Fourteen unforced errors, seven fewer than her opponent. Seventy-three percent of points won on her first serve. That's a full ten percent more than her opponent. When Serena Williams unleashed her first (only) "KAMANNNNN!" Osaka kept her head down and kept making her shots. When the histrionics started, and continued, she was able to keep her head and remain unbowed by the sideshow. She closed the match on her serve without blinking. She's 20. Naomi Osaka's first grand slam win got sidetracked by another incident, as did Amelie Mauresmo's against Justine Henin (Also bs nonsense, but strictly by Henin) Mauresmo won another, and was able to celebrate -- take in her moment. Osaka will, too, one day. She's 20. Here's hoping we get her for another 16-18 years, and that they are as successful as Williams'.

2. This isn't about women's rights: When an umpire says, "Code violation -- [ insert violation here], that is a code violation. Carlos Ramos doesn't call a coaching violation and then just say, "Oh, my bad!" unless of course, he was wrong. He was not wrong. Patrick Mouratoglou made hand signals to his player, which is known as coaching. It's just as possible that Serena only saw his thumbs, and not his indication to move into the court, or to move Osaka into the court. But he did it, Ramos saw, and it was a violation on her. This might be a thing she talks about with her coach. At any rate, she knew that because he said, "CODE VIOLATION, WILLIAMS." Good god, woman. Ramos did not compel her to smash her racquet. He also was sitting there minding his business when she decided to call him a thief and demand an apology multiple times. Had Serena kept her head down and focused on the task at hand (she was down a set and break), nothing else would have happened. Maybe she loses. Maybe she comes back to win the second set. But if Serena had said nothing, it is clear that Ramos would have been a non-factor in this match. To suggest, as Serena did, that this "struggle" for equal standing in the quest to say whatever she wants to an umpire, and that it will work out for others although it didn't for her? S-T-R-E-T-T-T-T-T-T-T-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-C-H

3. This is about fair play: We've seen this for years. Some umps are rule sticklers, others aren't. Some give a code violation for racquet abuse, and others don't. Some will give a code violation for backtalk from players (see: Federer v. del Potro at the U.S. Open in 2009) and others let it slide. Others still get down from their chairs and give the trailing player a pep talk. You see what I'm saying, yes? It's like boxing or figure skating. One judge's point-docking would cause another to say nothing. Umpires in tennis need to follow uniform rules. Even the serve clock this year (and indeed, in this match) was observed case-by-case. You shouldn't do that. It's either a rule or it isn't.

4. This is Serena Williams' fault: Listen, when you get a code violation, you don't then smash the living crap out of your racquet in plain view. You don't go ahead to call the ump names and give him a chance to call you out. No one would know this better than Serena Williams because THIS EXACT THING HAPPENED TO HER BEFORE. If anyone knows about violation penalties and poor timing, all she would need to do is take ONE LOOK at Mrs. Kim Clijsters. I mean, damn ... For Serena to suggest that it just seems to always happens to her here is completely neglecting the fact that she has been at fault at almost all those times. Clijsters. Stosur. Osaka. Dammit, woman

5. The fallout from the debacle is the USTA's fault: What the hell, Katrina Adams?! You've got a contentious ending to a match and a first-time Slam winner who is a kid and is already not enjoying the moment on account of the soap opera that unfolded en route, and what does Katrina Adams do? The first thing out of her mouth is, essentially, "You are a GOAT, Serena!" Which is true, but this is not the best time to point this out. After all, she did NOT win the match. Adams is tone-deaf AF on many things, and she should have done better here. This is why Serena Williams, who created this disaster, had to then calm the crowd before it turned into the background of the "This is America" music video. Because Adams, and post-match interviewer Tom Rinaldi, were not the adults in the room and by dint of their inability to read the moment could have led to Osaka having a breakdown after the biggest moment of her tennis life. (Rinaldi to Serena and Osaka during the postmatch, in essence: "So ... how about all of that?" God, man. Good god.)

6. This is not a time when Serena gets to change the game of tennis: I love me some Chris McKendry, but if she, Mary Joe Fernandez and Chrissie Evert didn't just fall in line with Serena's "women's rights" trope ... Now, Serena has had a history at the U.S. Open. Maybe you remember the time when she got screwed over during her match against Jennifer Capriati (you remember. This was the denim and boots outfit, which was as badass as one has gotten at any major. HANDS DOWN DON'T @ME. Definitely better than that tutu.) The horrible line calls against Serena in that match were ... wow, they were bad. Anyway, a few obviously bad line calls went against Serena and really did cost her in that 2004 quarterfinal match. Many people point to this as the birth of the challenge system. This turned out to be good for the game. Now, the ESPN cast is calling for on-court coaching because it happens anyway. What?! Even Serena doesn't want on-court coaching. In what world are we now attributing this disaster to a flaw in the rules as opposed to a flaw in Serena? She needs to cool out when she comes to play in Flushing. FULL DAMN STOP. Plenty of players get code violations, then move on in their lives. We're going to allow on-court coaching at Slams now for everyone (which, by the way, will probably just mean the women which is another injustice unto itself) because Serena lost her temper? What?!

7. Naomi Osaka. I just want to end on her. My god. Keeping your head through Nos. 2-6 to serve your way to a final? What maturity and poise. Most of us can't even stay that calm during a USTA league match. I hope they replay this match without the tantrums, so they can see what I saw early on -- that Osaka was ready. She came ready to play and snatched that title. Also, she's half-West Indian, so you're fam, sis, on these tennis streets. 😉

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