Open Letter to Serena Williams

I watched your press conference today, Serena. I'm sorry you lost. Yes, Serena, you lost.

Yes, usually when someone loses it's because they couldn't raise their game enough to triumph. But that doesn't mean that the other player didn't cause you to play that in a way that contributed to your loss. If I look at the match statistics, it was pretty even, except Svetlana Kuznetsova won a lot more points when receiving serve and won 20% more of the points on her second serve than you did. That pretty much says it all. That is probably not because of you. For the most part, those two statistics are driven by the performance of the player, not the opponent.

In your press conference, you stated, "Honestly, I think I lost because of me and not because of anything she did." Serena, you really need a reality check. You didn't make her win. Especially when receiving serve. The server always has the advantage (unless you are Elena Dementieva) and they usually force you into making a bad, weak, or otherwise unwanted shot.

I am still waiting for the Serena (or Venus) press conference where you actually acknowledge that your opponents have names. She has one, you know. Her name is Svetlana. How about you use herr name sometime in the press conferences?

Second, how about complimenting her play sometime? Svetlana outplayed you when the big points counted. She clearly played at a high level today. When you were asked about how she played, all you could muster was, "Obviously, she played well to walk away with the win." I know you are disappointed in your play, and no, you don't have to smile or be sunny during the interviews, but please, how about you actually give credit where credit is due? Just because you don't want to acknowledge it doesn't mean you shouldn't.

I will probably suffer a rash of hate mail after this column, but I don't really care. Once again, just when I think that Serena or Venus have turned a corner, they bring me back to reality. One of the things that makes a great champion is how gracious they are in defeat. It's easy to be gracious in victory.

I think one of the things I miss most about the early Open era players was their attitude, the civility. Great players, great champions, who always gave their opponents respect. I was young, but I'll never forget the 1971 WTC Championship match between Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall. Laver was the king of tennis, Rosewall an aging but still amazing player going on 20 years of playing. Some say it may still be the greatest single match ever. And in the end, Rosewall took the match. The after-match interviews were short, but Laver gave full credit to Rosewall. He didn't say that Rosewall didn't win. He didn't say that it was really just that he lost. Same for Federer at Wimbledon last year. He gave Rafa all his props.

Some of my colleagues want to just pass Serena's comment off as, as one who shall remain nameless said, "it's just the way the kids are today. It doesn't really mean anything." Baloney. You can't blame this on youth. You can't blame this on culture. You really can't blame this on anything more than Serena being Serena.

Maybe when Serena wins her next major tournament, she will say something like, "Honestly, (insert player name here) didn't lose today because of me, it wasn't anything great that I did. She should have won." Yeah, in my dreams.

Comments and Conversation

June 4, 2009


You are right on! Serena has done this forever and needs to be called on it.

June 4, 2009


Yours points on Serena’s lack of sportsmanship are well stated. As a fan of hers I am always put off and disappointed at this. Maybe someone will send her this letter.There is nothing in it that suggests anything mean spirited or unfair by the author. BTW I happen to be a fan of Federer and always pull for him however his sobbing all over Nadal’s Australian open award ceremony was a little unsportsmanlike his props to Nadal not withstanding. The way Nadal deferred to Federer was touching and pure class. Win or lose its hard not to like Nadal. Serena take notice, is is never too late.

June 7, 2009


frisco, it is too late for Serena. A little humility now would not atone for a career’s worth of failing to acknowledge that other players might also have some talent and may have contributed to their own successes.

I look forward to the day when Serena and her bad attitude are no longer involved in tennis.

June 11, 2009


I cannot say that I disagree with you about Serena’s failure during post-match conferences to give her opponents the credit they deserve. However, unlike many other “thrash-talking” athletes, she has the records to back up her assumption that she is the best. Nonetheless, I don’t disagree that she needs to be much more gracious in defeat.

On the other hand, you completely lost your credibility by bringing dragging Venus through the mud in the process. In case you were not aware, they are two distinct individuals. Venus is the epitome of grace both on and off the court in, whether she wins or loses. She compliments her opponents and, yes, she refers to them by their first names. So, get your facts straight.

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