Editorial: Graceless star should not be welcome back

Number 1 seed and Woman's tennis number 1, Serena Williams in action against Madison Brengle also from USA. Photo / Nick Reed
Number 1 seed and Woman's tennis number 1, Serena Williams in action against Madison Brengle also from USA. Photo / Nick Reed

Nothing ruins a game of tennis like a strong wind. Rain at least stops the game, wind reduces it to a farce in which the ball seldom goes where it is supposed to go. But only rank amateurs complain about it.

Professionals take pride in mastering the game in all conditions, and if they cannot win they certainly do not blame the conditions. Nothing ruins a professional's reputation like blaming the weather.

The world's best woman player came to Auckland's ASB Classic this week for the first and probably the last time. After losing her second round match in a blustery southerly at Stanley St, Serena Williams not only blamed the wind she declared it the "least favourite conditions I've ever played in", added that the tournament was "not a great opportunity to assess your game" and departed with the consolation (for her) that, "At least I can get out of these conditions so I can get somewhere better, and warmer weather too."

Those comments would have a body blow to Auckland Tennis and its tournament director, Karl Budge, whose task it is every year to persuade top players to come here as part of their build up for the Australian Open in Melbourne, the first of the year's four grand slam events.

Auckland spectators have no illusions that the best players Budge can get, paying them undisclosed appearance fees, are not always here to win the tournament. They are tuning up their game for Melbourne on the same court surface they will find there, if not the same weather.

It has to be said, Auckland has seen far worse displays that Williams gave on the court on Wednesday. She was not playing well but she was not throwing it away. She fought to win a tie break for the second set and take the match to a third.

She had not played an ATP tournament for many months and it was known she would be struggling for form. She could have departed with the understanding and gratitude of Auckland fans for having had a glimpse of a player of her standing if she had observed the normal graces of sporting professionals at a press conference after the match.

Her sister, Venus, provided a complete contrast as she, too, made an early exit with an injury. Venus Williams has clearly appreciated the efforts made by the Auckland tournament and its volunteers to make players welcome here and ensure they enjoy their time in the city. The hospitality has not distracted her from winning the tournament, and it was possibly at her urging that Serena came here.

But an appearance fee would have come into the champion's calculations too. What a pity it did not come back into her calculations before she trashed the tournament. She may have made it more difficult for the director to recruit players for next year, though it is possible her peers do not take what she says seriously. They remember her giving a linesman a spray far worse.

Auckland in January is most certainly not the worst of conditions these players would face on their circuit. Serena Williams has disgraced only herself and she should not be invited back.

- NZ Herald

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