the importance of sportship
September 12, 2009
Serena Williams lost in the semi-finals of the US Open Tennis Championship due a lack of sportship. A second code violation in a match merely means a point penalty, but this one came at match point which for once meant real and instant repercussions for vulgar unsportslike behaviour. Earlier, Serena had her first code violation for breaking her racquet after losing the first set.
None of this ugliness should over-shadow just how well Kim Clijsters played; she is on a comeback after a two year break where she had a baby and she has beaten the best to be here (including Venus Williams). Clijsters would probably have won in straight sets anyway as she was out playing Serena, but the ugly side of Serena intervened when she verbally attacked and threatened the linesperson for calling a foot fault that gave Clijsters a match-point (15-40 with the match at 4-6, 5-6). Her reaction to the call, where she described in a very profane way how she would shove the ball down the official’s throat, is what cost her the match.
Shame on John McEnroe for even trying to defend Serena by suggesting that the whole episode would have been avoided if the official hadn’t called a foot fault – the usual ‘blame the victim’ defence employed in many of our court rooms. Even if the linesperson was wrong, Serena had no right to act that aggressively. I am glad that McEnroe’s co-commentator corrected him immediately.
I am not suggesting that a person may not lose it emotionally when the circumstances are so critical and dramatic, but he or she must then bear the consequences of their actions. Serena didn’t act like a champion tonight nor did she play like one. The correct player won with a clear demonstration of why sportship is important.