Saturday, September 08, 2007

2007 US Open : Final Thoughts

Gamesmanship: How many tennis matches have we seen where an opponent calls for the trainer as a defense tactic, only to come roaring back to win the set and/or the match?

When the trainer attended to Venus, she refused to take a timeout, but rather continued the match. As Mary Carillo pointed out that neither sister abuses this privilege in the sport.

Prior to The Williams Sisters climbing the ranks in a previously predominantly Anglo sport, I never would’ve have paid attention to tennis — men’s or women’s.

I was caught by surprise by their physical prowess and dominance from the baseline and at the net. Much like I was drawn into the living room from the kitchen years ago when I first heard Jessye Norman's voice rise and fall on a PBS special years ago.

Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to go where we’re most welcomed and comfortable. Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, and Zina Garrison were relegated to Black History Month in my southwestern school system.

Can’t we embrace The Williams Sisters, James Blake, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, and Donald Young for taking up the torch started by Althea and Arthur? Can we not open ourselves to embracing African American, Mexican-American, and Asian-American tennis players? Or is there no room in our collective consciousness for people who don’t fit our comfortable notion of what a tennis player (athlete) should be?

I can only imagine what it’s like to walk into the largest tennis stadium in the world as an ethnic tennis player. Tennis is not a group sport like basketball or football. Doubles players still have telephoto and TV camera lenses trained on their hairlines. I commend Venus, Serena, Vania King, Sania Mirza, James Blake, and Donald Young for keeping their dignity in a sport that had been unavailable to many of their ancestors.

I can’t forget Dick Engberg’s repeated comments during 2007 US Open about Ana Ivanovic’s “Rita Hayworth” looks. Is tennis about all-white tennis outfits and matinee idol looks? Or is it about dynamic athletes doing their best on any given day?

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