On the fourth of July, I watched Serena beat Venus at Wimbledon on ESPN2 at a viewing party in a friend’s apartment. It was the fourth time the Williams sisters have met at Wimbledon (but only my friend’s second Breakfast at Wimbledon Party). Venus has won 5 titles there. This was Serena’s 3rd Wimbledon title and her 11th Grand Slam title. The announcers and commentators are always beside themselves whenever these two meet, debating their popularity, who is the better player, their off the court social and business endeavors, and the antics of their father/coach who never watches them play because he says he it is too much like watching them fight. Serena’s best friend, Kelly Rowland, from Destiny’s Child was there with their mother Oracene Williams. The match was exciting, especially in the first set when Serena came from behind to win. But for me, the best part of the whole event was the post match interview with Serena in which she was questioned about how she felt about remaining #2 in the rankings even though she had just won her 3rd Grand Slam title this year. The player who is ranked #1, Dinara Safina, had lost to Venus in the semi-finals. Here is the link to the clip: Serena\’s Post-Match Interview
The WTA ranking system is complicated but basically the major tournaments are each alloted a point value and players get a share of the points according to how they place in the tournaments. I am not suggesting that anyone screwed with the numbers or anything like that. No, what is being discussed in the video clip is a more subtle discrepancy about the ways in which the player with the most points in the WTA system is often not the same as the most dominant player. The Grand Slam titles are the tournaments that have the highest point values. Serena has won 3 out of 4 Grand Slams this year. The top ranked player hasn’t won any Grand Slam titles. So what is in debate isn’t really who should be the top ranked player within the WTA ranking system but what that system really tells us. Serena’s response to the reporter’s question about how she feels about being #2 makes it clear that she feels like she is the best player in the world. Her performance on the court certainly backs that up! This post is intended to celebrate not just Serena’s dominance in the tennis world but also her winning self-confidence. Despite the trumpets that sounded at Barack Obama’s inauguration like he was the Second Coming, it is rarely surprising to me when a black person who has achieved something remarkable does not get their due praise. When you are passed over for something you feel you deserve, it can be very easy to dwell on the (minor) injustice of that moment and lose sight of the bigger picture. Serena’s full throated laugh and flippant tone show that she will not be derailed in her quest to match Billie Jean King’s 12 Grand Slam titles. Serena refuses to believe that other people are better than her (especially when there is a truckload of evidence to the contrary). There is something inspiring about holding on to that idea of who you are (in her case, the best women’s tennis player in the world) no matter what you are told. Plus, she made me laugh out loud. Go Serena!