The Two Sides of the Serena Williams Coin: The Arrogant Ace?

Mary O'SheaSenior Writer IFebruary 9, 2010

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 30:  Serena Williams of the United States of America celebrates winning a point in her women's final match against Justine Henin of Belgium during day thirteen of the 2010 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 30, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

Complete female athlete or embarrassment to her code?

Bad winner and even worse loser?

It seems that Serena Williams' measured value to women's tennis is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Ever since the Williams Sisters set foot on the tennis court, they have caused debate. They dressed differently, played differently, and they did it their way. 

While the Sisters are often viewed as a package, the quieter Venus has been somewhat overshadowed by her more vocal younger sister.

The current World No. 1 has so far amassed 12 Grand Slam Single Titles and 11 Grand Slam Double Titles, along with two Olympic medals, WTA titles, and year end championships.

As Serena Williams climbed to the top of the female tennis world, she courted plenty of controversy along the way.

Some adore her fighting spirit, while others despise her attitude.

It seems she is either loved or hated. Fans see whichever side of her they want to and grasp it.

Such is the complexity of Williams' character that for the first time, the popular Two Sides of the Coin series is stepping outside the World Football category to try and dissect the two sides of her career.

The series is based on a simple idea: that of a coin.

The negatives are labelled "tails", and the positive view on these situations are labelled "heads."

Some will argue Serena Williams' character is all "tails", others will say it's all "heads", and some will argue she is a bit of both; that the coin stands upright in the middle.

Using this concept, let's look at some of the biggest moments in Serena Williams' career and argue for and against her actions.

Tails: Williams has no style on the court.

Her basic play is to smash the ball as hard as she can. She rarely approaches the net and has little variation in her shots and pace.

Tennis has become boring when she wins so much in that manner. She beats her opponents with power. It seems a case of, "If I can't win by hitting hard, well next time I'll just hit it harder."

Sadly, a lot of the more graceful players can't match her power.

Heads: And?

Tennis is a professional sport. This is Serena Williams' job, and she has found a way of winning. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If relying on aces and powerful smashes has brought her 12 Grand Slams to date, why should she change her style to make others feel better?

Williams' job is not to be a twirling ballerina on the court. It's to beat her opponents, and by all accounts she is doing it well.

Perhaps those more "graceful" players should put more effort into the power of their shots, if they are so worried by it all.

Besides, watching someone serve a ball at 200kph is hardly boring, is it?

Williams is beatable. She gets beat left, right, and centre on the WTA Tour. Sadly for others, she is like Federer because she can up her game when it matters: for the Grand Slams.

Tails:  It is true, Williams can be beaten, and what a bad loser she is.

Never does she admit that an opponent beat her fair and square on the court. She always has her excuses, be it an injury, mistakes she made, or the fact that she supposedly wasn't on the top of her game.

When Dinara Safina was World No. 1, Williams' comments were snide and wide of the mark. Safina was No. 1 because she deserved to be at that time.

She is a terrible winner as well.

Only against Justine Henin at the Australian Open did she show any grace to her competitor in victory, and even that looked fake.

Nobody likes such ungraciousness. 

Tennis is after all a sport and some sporting behaviour from Williams wouldn't go amiss.

Heads:  Tennis players are like golfers. They never show emotion or lead anyone to believe that another player is more talented.

It's all mind games, psychology.

Show weakness to an opponent and they will take advantage.

When Williams wins and gloats, she is only reasserting that she is the best player.

She is a champion and doesn't like losing. Good losers and bad losers have one thing in common: they are both losers.

Her comments towards Safina went perhaps too far, but at the end of the day she was only reminding the Russian that she hadn't gone away.

So her grace towards Henin was fake? Well, at the end of the day isn't it all fake?

Tennis is a solo sport in the main where the players look out for themselves. Is there really any graceful winners or losers on a tennis court, male or female?

Heads: Serena Williams doesn't deserve to be World No. 1.

She has countless excuses in reserve so she can pull out of countless tourney matches.

Instead of playing, she is off promoting her latest line of clothing or writing a book.

She returns for the Grand Slams, does well, and ups her rankings, which is unfair to the women who slug it out each tourney to improve their tennis and rankings.

Williams thinks she can waltz in and out of events. As Pat Cash said, "she is a lost cause" thinking she can just turn up and return to the No. 1 spot.

Tails: Surely it's her choice to refuse to play in any tournament that is not mandatory on the tour.

If she does so because she is promoting her latest product, surely it's her right to do so.

To say she is not injured for all these tournaments is harsh. She clearly has suffered with knee and ankle problems down through the years. If her prerogative is to save her body for the Slams, then, unless the rules change, she is within her rights to do so.

Were the other women good enough, they would displace her from No. 1 spot. It's not up to Williams to accommodate their challenge. They have to push her.

As for Pat Cash's scathing attack in 2007, I ask who's looking deluded now?

Tails: Speaking of not playing certain tournaments, isn't it time that she left bygones be bygones and return this year to Indian Wells?

Talk about holding a grudge! It's been nine years.

The William sisters' continual refusal to turn up at the event is now making them look very petty. They are missing out on rankings and money because the crowd booed Serena in the final.

Of course, if they hadn't fixed the semi-final then none of this would have happened.

Heads: Maybe principle means more to some people than money and tour rankings.

For the Williams to boycott an event for eight years and counting, a home event at that, then something serious must have happened.

It was clarified by an independent doctor at the time that Venus was suffering from an injury. In fact, it is said she wanted to withdraw hours earlier, but the tour officials wouldn't allow it because of ticket sales and the television audience.

What followed in the final was despicable.

If anyone needs to look at themselves, it's the tour organisers and majority of the crowd.

The boos that hurdled down on the then 19-year-old were nasty. Indeed, reports suggests it was more than boos that greeted Serena on court and her family in the stands.

Serena and Venus should be congratulated for sticking to their guns. Of course, they could always return and show Indian Wells what their silly actions have cost them over the past eight years.

Heads: If ever an act summed up Serena Williams, then it was the 2009 US Open, where she took it upon herself to launch a vicious verbal assault on a line judge who was just doing her job.

Unfortunately for the line judge, it was Serena Williams she called the foot fault on, a Serena Williams who was losing to the returning Kim Clijsters.

Williams saw an excuse and took it with open hands.

Once again she couldn't admit defeat. Instead, she launched into a tirade, which pushed Clijsters' wonderful return out of the news.

Forget the fine, she should have been banned for a year. Talk about getting off lightly.

Tails:  Three sporting events dominated the news towards the end of 2009.

Tiger Woods cheated on his wife with countless mistresses. Thierry Henry cheated the entire Irish nation when he controlled the ball with his hand to set up William Gallas. And Serena Williams got a bit larky with a line umpire.

So we have two cheats and someone who got a bit mad.

Williams is certainly guilty of an over-reaction—of that there is little doubt—but the calls for her to be banned are absurd. Has tennis always being this sanitised?

John McEnroe did it match after match, and people thought it was hilarious and part of his character.

Andy Roddick loses his cool quite often on the court, as do numerous others, but on the ONE occasion Williams really loses it, they are calls for her to be banned.

There is seriously something wrong here.

The call was a tight one, and considering the seriousness of the match, it was expected the judge would let it go but didn't.

In the past (and since then), Williams has fought back to win when it seemed the game was up. Perhaps she thought she could do the same here?

There is little excuse for her overreaction, but it's not like she hasn't had previous issues with umpires at the US Open.

In 2004, she was the victim of laughable umpiring in her quarter-final match against Jennifer Capriati. 

Time and again bizarre calls were made in favour of Capriati in the last set. Balls that were clearly in were called out.

Cynics would suggest that the officials were making sure Williams wouldn't make it to the semi-final. If that was the case, they succeeded.

And how did Williams react?

She shook her opponent's hand, shook the umpire's hand, smiled, and walked off the court.

Perhaps 2004 was heavily in her mind in 2009?

Once bitten, twice shy!

So Serena Williams is one complex lady, or is she?

Is she an arrogant, egotistical woman who happens to have enough power in her arms to be World No. 1?

Or she is someone who is largely misunderstood? Is she someone who is determined and driven in her goal to be the best?

Do those who despise her not like her because of her attitude, or is it really a result of jealousy?

Perhaps it is something more.

Either way, drama has followed her around to date in her career and will probably continue to do so.

As she once said : "I'm like one of those girls on a reality show that has all the drama, and everyone in the house hates them because no matter what they do, like, drama follows them. I don't want to be that girl."

Does she create drama or is she a victim of drama?

Flick that coin.

Other articles in the series:

The Two Sides of the Nicklas Bendtner Coin

The Two Sides of the Cristiano Ronaldo Coin

The Two Sides of the Arsene Wenger Coin

The Two Sides of the Wayne Rooney Coin

The Two Sides of the Roy Keane Coin

The Two Sides of the John Terry Coin: Naughty Boy, but Valiant Captain


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