September 13th, 2009
I enjoy watching tennis. The U.S. Open always marks the end of summer for me. I’ve managed to rope my son into watching with me and he’s become a tennis fan too. Last night we watched with special interest one of the women’s semi-final matches.
We’d been watching the return to tennis of Kim Clijsters, the once U.S. Open champion, and young Belgian who left the sport to start a family. Now, 18 months after the birth of her daughter Jada, she finds herself back in the sport and maybe back to a skill level even she didn’t anticipate so soon. Clijsters played Serena Williams in her semi-final match and won. She didn’t just hang around for a while until Serena crushed her, she stood toe to toe and traded powerful ground strokes with Serena. With each passing successful service game that Kim Clijsters had, Serena became more and more frustrated until a foot fault was called against her and she erupted into a tirade.
Clijsters got the better of her and that wasn’t written into the script Serena had read. Serena, in her frustration, couldn’t take it anymore and had to find someone to blame. The object of her wrath was a tiny, female lines person who called the foot fault. Serena said profane, threatening things to her and because of it had a point taken away, or rather awarded to her competitor, which might not seem like a big deal except it was match point. This was not exactly the way Kim Clijsters wanted to win the match either. I think everyone knew Kim was going to win, just not this way. The disappointment for me was the way it happened. The unsportsmanlike conduct that Serena Williams exhibited was a disappointment to me and to her fans.
But beyond that, when I caught a portion of Serena’s press conference afterward she took no ownership of what she had done. She talked about how she lives life with no regrets, and that she had already put the incident behind her and didn’t plan on talking about it any longer. I kept thinking that if she had just said, “I really blew it. I let Kim’s great play get the better of me. I didn’t keep my emotions in check. I’m really sorry and I hope it won’t happen again,” how much more sympathy people would have given her. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. But it’s my hope that as we try to model right living for those who are watching we’ll own up to the mistakes we make. What do you think?