Thursday, 22 September 2011

Precious Serena

Tennis along with all other professional sports in the current era has a major problem with the behaviour of some of its players.

Serena Williams is no exception, in fact she is the problem. Her behaviour on the tennis court can be appalling at times. This was highlighted by her tantrum in the US Open Final last Monday in New York against Australia’s Sam Stosur.

Serena had only just finished her probation period from her last outburst which occurred at the same tournament in 2009 where she threatened lineswomen. This was all because of what Serena thought was an unjust foot fault call.

As a result she was fined a total of $US175, 000 with a two year probation period and suspension from the 2010 US Open.

Despite this Serena’s continues to abuse officials. Her outburst towards chair umpire Eva Asderaki after a call against Williams for deliberate hindrance of a player after yelling out during the point is the most recent example.

The outburst attracted only a $US2000 fine which has been taken out of her prize money for finishing runner up behind Sam Stosur as it was and I quote

"not considered a serious offence under Grand Slam Tennis conduct"

This is a load of rubbish, not only is the fine a drop in the ocean for Williams, but there is a no incentive to change her behaviour as it sends a message that she can get away with this appalling behaviour without any real consequences. I ask you, how can the verbal abuse and intimidation of a chair umpire not be considered a serious offence?

If the International Tennis Federation (ITF) was serious about stamping out abuse of umpires and officials by players it must impose large fines and suspensions like many other sports do for similar offences. It must send a message to all players that this is not okay and there will be severe consequences if you abuse any official, be it the chair umpire, linesperson or ball kid.

Williams should have lost all of her prize money as a result of her outburst towards Eva Azderaki. She also should have been suspended from the next Grand Slam which is the Australian Open.

 At least if Williams does come to Melbourne Park in 2012, she will have lost the respect of Australians and I would like to think that official at Tennis Australia would look very bad if they do let her compete.

In the meantime, the message sent to players and the tennis loving public is that the ITF do not see the lack of respect for tennis officials as a big issue and players will continue to follow Williams lead for as long as they can get away with it.

The ITF and its member countries cannot ignore this issue, it must be addressed, and before the Australian Open in January 2012. If not Williams and others will continue with this unsportsmanlike behavior which is doing great damage to the sport, as well as the reputation of the individuals who behave like two year olds.

Tennis must not rest in the off season as there is a lot of work to be done, player behaviour towards officials is just one area that must be addressed and it must be done now.