Sunday, February 1, 2009

Serena Captures Women's Singles and Doubles Titles in Oz

In a final that lasted 59 minutes, Serena Williams captured her 10th Grand Slam Singles title at the Australian Open, beating Russia's Dinara Safina, 6-0, 6-3. It was Serena's fourth consecutive singles win in Melbourne during an odd-numbered year (she won in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009) . I was there in 2007 when she beat Maria Sharapova in the Finals, 6-1, 6-2. Two years ago, Tracy Austin gave Serena very little chance of winning the first Grand Slam of the year, suggesting that Serena was not fit enough to endure the hot Australian sun. Yet, despite several close calls, Serena prevailed over the likes of Nadia Petrova, Shahar Peer, and Nicole Vaidisova. Although her early rounds may have been close in 2007, Serena left little doubt that she would win against Sharapova, as she came out sharp in the first set and dominated throughout. Thus, it came as no surprise to me that Serena won handily in this year's final, even though she again struggled in some of her early round matches.

Following her most recent win, Serena recaptured the No. 1 ranking in the world, surpassing former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, from Serbia. Some argued that Jankovic was not deserving of the top ranking since she has yet to win a Grand Slam. That is a moot point now that Serena has re-secured the No. 1 spot. With her victory, the younger Williams also established herself as the top-earning female athlete of all time, winning a total of nearly $23 million to pass LPGA golfer Annika Sorenstam. When compared to the top male athlete, Tiger Woods, Serena's earnings for her career are about the equivalent of what Woods earned in all of 2008, despite his being injured for part of the season. In addition to capturing the Singles title, Serena teamed with sister Venus to win the Women's Doubles with a convincing 6-3, 6-3 win over Danielle Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama.
With the resurgence of the Williams sisters, Women's Tennis appears to be in good shape with the bulk of the season lying ahead. And yet, as the Williams sisters return to the spotlight, the WTA faces an inevitable showdown when the Tour travels to Indian Wells March 9-22 of this year. Since 2001, the Williams sisters have boycotted the tournament formerly known as the Pacific Life Open. And there has been no indication that they will discontinue their boycott despite the WTA Tour's new "Road Map" that was approved by the WTA Executive Board. According to the new tour guidelines, the Indian Wells Tournament is one of four tournaments that the players must enter, at the risk of being penalized. In my view, the Williams sisters are right to continue their boycott of Indian Wells. In an article by the New York Times Christopher Clarey (2008), Serena was quoted as saying: “I’m not going to be playing at Indian Wells,” Serena Williams said in an interview last month. “I’ve had some extremely life-altering things that happened to me there. So I told Larry Scott there are things that happened there that he understands shouldn’t happen, especially me being African-American" (para. 7).
While the powers that be in tennis attempt to find a way to negotiate with the Williams sisters, hoping to circumvent the inevitable confrontation over Indian Wells, is it possible that they might be persuaded to revisit the events that occurred at Indian Wells in 2001? Perhaps in doing so, they may discover that Venus and Serena have had good reasons to continue their boycott of the event.