Superb Serena Stuns Safina

by Sheyi Oriade

Last week, Serena Williams was in the news for matters wholly unrelated to her mastery of tennis. As a famous African American world sporting icon, her views were sought as to the emergence of Barack Obama as her nation’s first black president. Naturally and unsurprisingly she expressed her great delight, re-echoing many of the sentiments expressed by others in the aftermath of his historic victory last November. But she did not stop there. She went on to release a bombshell as thunderous as any of her powerful cross court serves. She declared that she had not voted in the historic election that propelled Barack Obama to the White House.

It was a stunning confession and one that must have left more than a few people astounded. It turns out that her decision not to vote had nothing to do with her professional scheduling arrangements or brand of politics, but everything to do with proscriptions prescribed by her religious denominational beliefs; but each to their individual lights.

This week, her attention returned to what she knows and does best; winning tennis tournaments. Down under in Australia, together with her sister, the elegant and statuesque – Venus – she has been doing battle with some of the finest competitors in the women’s game today. In this edition of the competition Venus was to exit early. But then again, the Australian Open has rarely ever been one of her more fortunate stomping grounds in the women’s singles event.

So it fell to Serena to fly and keep aloft her family’s flag and that of her many supporters around the world. Serena has big shoulders – both literally and figuratively – and she carries the weight of expectation, as does her sister, with dignity and good grace; competing with a fierceness and fairness, and often to successful effect.

This morning, she trounced Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3, to win her first Grand Slam title of the year and the 10th Grand Slam Single crown of her career to date. By so doing she has set down a marker and issued a reminder to her fellow competitors, that she and her sister remain a compelling and potent force in women’s tennis. Her controversial and visionary father had once declared that women’s tennis ‘needed his daughters, more than his daughters needed tennis’.

He was roundly dismissed at the time as speaking out of turn, but the passage of time has proved him to be right and they remain the star attractions at Grand Slam and other major tennis events around the world. Tournaments today, are hardly complete or considered sufficiently competitive without their participation. Tournament organisers realise that their presence at their events, greatly inflate their value and raise their profile.

The uniqueness of their style of play and mastery of the game often makes nonsense of the sports seeding and ranking system, which classifies the best and worst players in the world. On more than one occasion in the past, they have arrived at Gland Slam tournaments with relatively low seeding and world rankings only to confound form makers by emerging victorious at the culmination of the events.

It is instructive to note that many of the top women players who started out on the circuit at the same time or thereabouts with the Williams sisters have since retired from the game through injury or exhaustion, a direct result of the relentless pace and tough scheduling of the sport. Their parents (Richard and Oracene) who double as their coaches and mentors decided early on in their careers that they would pursue other interests outside the game in order to become well rounded individuals.

For taking this stance, the sisters and their parents had to withstand a barrage of criticism and scepticism from former champions and self proclaimed aficionados of the game who doubted their commitment to the game; a game which has given them fame and wealth.

Thankfully, they remained true to their guiding principles keeping their own counsel, and as a result they have been able to achieve near longevity in the game, a feature which has eluded many of their peers; many of whom have burned out and disappeared without trace from the game. In contrast, the blaze of the Williams sisters’ phenomenal talent continues to burn ever so brightly.

As a prelude to Serena’s magnificent and masterful victory in the singles event, the sisters combined the force of their talent to win the doubles title in Melbourne, thus ensuring their total dominance at this year’s tournament.

And so Serena, even though you elected not to vote in the elections that saw electoral history made in America last November, I am certain that your numerous admirers will continue to cast their votes of support in your favour as you continue your sporting career.

Congratulations on your victory at the Australian Open and for once again becoming the number one ranked women’s tennis player in the world.

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