Thursday, March 29, 2007

Never Going Back To Indian Wells.

Neither Serena nor Venus Williams have played at the Indian Wells WTA tour event in California since 2001, when Venus was roundly booed by the crowd there before pulling out prior to a semi-final match between the two, and Serena maintains she isn't headed back this year either. Their father Richard claimed the episode was racially motivated; although I'm sure crowd disappointment had something to do with it, at the time, I couldn't imagine that race had nothing to do with it, because at that time, Richard was, for all intents and purposes, a pariah in tennis. He dared to act as coach, manager, and protector to his daughters rather than submit to an established name as a coach and handler. A slightly boorish man, probably, but no worse than any manner of tennis parent (please see Mary Pierce's father for one of your more egregious examples.)

The problem is that the tournament will be mandatory come 2009, as the Women's Tennis Association has recently decided that Indian Wells is one of four compulsory events. Players who do not participate can expect either fines or suspensions, and while Serena has enough money to make that a non-issue, it's telling that the WTA response to her complaints is rather tin-eared:

It's always way too easy to say the Williams family is still playing the race card, but all of that has been colored by past coverage of the sisters and their father. Furthermore, this only adds to the recent incident of a spectator dropping the "nigger" on Serena at the Ericsson Open for a reminder of what D-Wil has titled "Serena Williams' Burden": you can take the sport out of the country club, but sometimes you can't take the country club out of the sport without kicking and screaming first.

(Errata Alert: Anyone else notice AOL filed this story under "NCAA Basketball"? Weird.)

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