Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Final Word: Indian Wells 2001


Down under Selective Outrage, a spirited discussion is unfolding about Serena and Venus Williams' choice to continue to boycott since 2001 the 6th Slam at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California.

I had never seen the 2001 final between Serena and Kim Clijsters, never bothered to see the match after hearing so much about it, but decided to watch it earlier this week when the entire brouhaha resurfaced as it does every year at this time. I even posted a few segments of the match, which can be seen in its entirety on YouTube. Took me awhile to get through it because the situation was chilling. That Serena was able to deal with all of it with such grace and dignity, able to rally from the brink of defeat to win the match is a moment in sports history this writer won't soon forget.

Here's my final word on the situation and then this train is leaving the station.


During the spriited discussion, our contributor MMT said...

But I don't know that such a response [an announcement from the tournament officials] would have made a difference...

It's moot, of course, but I firmly believe it would have made all the difference in the world.

It makes a huge difference when the chair umpire tells the crowd to stop applauding after a first serve. And all the umpire has to do to calm the crowd down is say "Please" a few times in any language.

Tennis crowds are like sheep. If you let them get out of hand, they'll go all the way there. If you remind them of the traditional fan etiquette, they fall in line.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but if a tournament official opened the event, before the players even came onto the court for warm up, with an explanatory and firm statement similar to the one I imagined in the comment section linked above, the entire situation could likely have been avoided.

In any case, no one could have said the tournament did nothing.

As it was, no tournament or match official whatsoever, including the chair umpire, did anything to even attempt to control the atmosphere.

But, alas, a security officer was dispatched to sit by Richard Williams through almost the entire match. I would guess the officer was there to stop someone from trying to harm Mr. Williams, since, clearly, the crowd was becoming more vociferous as the match wore on and Mr. Williams, clearly, was no threat to anyone as he sat and watched his daughter try to win a tennis match.

But why would Mr. Williams need protection? And from whom?

The only logical answer is because tournament officials wanted to protect his safety. I say this is the only logical answer because it would be illogical to think Mr. Williams had threatened anyone else but still be allowed to sit inside the stadium, free as a bird, and watch his daughter try to win a tennis match.

Now, why would he be potentially unsafe? Perhaps the tournament officials knew of some threatening language (including a racial epithet, perhaps?) hurled his way as the negative atmosphere escalated.

Can't rule it out, can you?

I don't need this to be about racism. I don't. In fact, I hope it wasn't. But only a fool or a blind optimist would rule it out.

If there was, indeed, a racial element in the utterances of the vociferous fans, and if the family did not share this with anyone for days, it could mean Richard and Venus were trying not to make a big public stink about it.

Isn't it therefore entirely possible that they finally broke their silence as a way to push back against the unfounded criticisms and accusations hurled at them?

Don't victims of rape and incest or other abuse often remain silent for strings of time before they tell their story? And don't they often, in the case of, say, incest or domestic violence, remain silent in order to protect a loved one?

If Serena didn't know about any racial remarks until she was asked in an interview, it's entirely possible her father and sister didn't tell her about them, not that they weren't uttered. Maybe they wanted to protect her, baby of the family that she is. She was only 19.

Can't rule it out.

All I'm saying is there's too much we don't know about what happened and too many people are looking to poke holes in the Williamses' accounts like lawyers cross-examining witnesses who they believe lack credibility.

Why would the Williamses lie about what happened? What would be the point? They weren't suing the tournament for damages. They weren't asking Al Sharpton to organize a protest against the tournament. So what did they get for lying? How did they benefit?

What we know is this: Venus was really injured and no one told that to the disgruntled fans between the semifinal and final. A family was booed by a vociferous crowd when they entered the stadium. A tennis player, who had done nothing wrong or untoward to anyone in the stadium, was booed by a vociferous crowd during and even after she won the match. A tennis player was booed by a vociferous crowd during the trophy ceremony. The tournament never took action to attempt to stop it or apologize in the immediate aftermath. The tournament seemed perfectly content to allow far too many people to believe that Venus wasn't really injured, the semifinal match was fixed, and the Williamses were perpetrating a fraud on the fans and the sport.

That's what we know.

Lest we forget, this was no walk in the park for Clijsters who once said it was the most difficult on-court moment of her career.

I won't go so far as to say that the tournament's silence actually fanned the flames of the controversy, but the silence was wrong.

What we know and whatever else might have happened behind the scenes in Indian Wells, California, 8 years ago this month, left such a mark on the Williamses that they have chosen never to return.

That's their prerogative, that's their right, and critics of their choice basically need to step the fuck off.


Pamela said...

Excellent post and summation of my feelings as well. I place the blame squarely on Indian Wells and later the WTA for not saying a word.

People can believe as they wish, but ultimately they need to leave them alone. They don't bring this up, they don't discuss it, they aren't suing, they are not asking for anything other than the right to not play this event.

Savannah said...

I am still amazed that some in tennis circles feel the Williams family should be punished for a personal choice they've made. What do they want Larry Scott to do, drag them out at high noon and do something awful? Would that satisfy them?

I boycott several recording artists, R.Kelly among them. It's not a big deal and I'm sure he doesn't miss my chump change but I feel better ignoring his sorry ass.

I am proud to say I've never seen a Chuck Norris movie. I will be boycotting Barnes and Noble going forward. These are my personal choices and I won't be on a soapbox about them. The same with IW and the Williams family. They have made a personal choice. Why is everyone up in arms about it?

Beth said...

Craig, can you point me to the Youtube videos so I can see what this is about? I did not see the match(es) and would like to be an informed participant in this discussion.

thedanielstation said...

Well said. I am going to Indian Wells this weekend as I have for the past 3 years and will be sad not to see Serena and Venus, but I completely understand their boycott.

Beth said...

I see your clips in post below but I'm trying to find the entire match but cannot.....thanks.

Craig Hickman said...

Beth, if you double click on the first video in the link, a YouTube window will open up. You will see that that segment is marked 1/13 in the title. On the right side of the screen, you have to scroll down to find 2/13, 3/13, 4/13, etc.

They're not in any particular order. It took me a while to find them all in sequence, but they're there.

Beth said...

Thanks for the help Craig. :-)

Pamela said...

I wasn't the only one who agreed wholeheartedly with you Craig. Did you see this?

Craig Hickman said...

Pamela, thanks for that link.

Graf_sampras said...

Blogger Pamela said...

Excellent post and summation of my feelings as well. I place the blame squarely on Indian Wells and later the WTA for not saying a word.

People can believe as they wish, but ultimately they need to leave them alone. They don't bring this up, they don't discuss it, they aren't suing, they are not asking for anything other than the right to not play this event.

Thu Mar 12, 04:20:00 PM


that sums up my view also.

thank you for stating it so clearly.

dapxin said...

I am glad I finally got to see a video evidence of this much-talked about 'show'.

Quick Questions: where is Kim from? Is she American?(dont laugh @ me, this side of the atlantic, football is king :) + Did anyone who watched the games before the supposedly fixed semi's know what responses V + S got from the crowd?

As someone who's suffered slight racial tint-ing out here while also recognising that some blacks are ever so quick, to pull the racist card, I think this video doesn't tell me much that I can categorigally call from.

Clearly, there were hostile fans out there, but what's to not say they were really for the notion that V was fixing it for Serena? and as such P'd off ?

Again, clearly there were fans who applauded Serena's shots suggesting to me, it was a psychological thing still with the booing ones?

I have read so much bit and byte about this incident,and I can understand V+S's position;

Certain things are just better imagined, than experienced in this world...but the WTA - whatever n00bheads were in charge at the time, surely did allow this to escalate, in that its been this long, yet there are no official apologies?

If there were no dumbies in their WTA ranks, someone should have felt for the family - they were humiliated indeed, even more so by the silence of the tourney and god! who saw it in 2001 to comment on the trohpy presentatn - and at least, got them round to apologise deeply, perhaps with assurances that such disrespect, and tacit crowd-misinformation wouldnt happen again...

No one likes to be humiliated - and the fact of V+S's being black should have expedited the need to stay unbiased in what now turnes out to be V/S/R v Indian wells dichotomy.

Finally, we may analyse this till we are blue in the face, I always hold that these sort of incidence do have far deeper sides to the cube, than the other sides we see.

This was probably not down to racism on all of the crowd, or even the WTA people, but given the context of the character and - V + W, and perhaps Rich, are quite legitmate to read 'racism' off it, and to that extent, bar a decent apology, do reserve the right to ask all, Indiana wells whiner, to f0ck off.

dapxin said...

I have managed to write some mashed up grammar up there - forgive me, I am sleepy here in london

The queen will be mad @ me :) but I can always appeal to the Barrack? Craig Right ?

goodnite folks

Graf_sampras said...

in part , whether the incident in indian wells had racist elements that were just waiting to emerge since the Sisters started to own the WTA , this was also about the suspicions that the williamses "fixed matches" to "share" titles between them...

but the thing is:

why would matches not be suspected as FIXED between the maleeva sisters?

after all -- it is the "sisterhood" that brings about a suspicion of match fixing in a case where the "family industry" is concerned.

so -- imo, since the sisters were :

1) black
2) the most dominant in so many years

they became "fair game" for those that were INCLINED to be suspicious because

1) they were sisters
2) and BECAUSE they were BLACK SISTERS who WERE dominant.

in other words:

"because they were BLACK dominant sisters -- they MUST be Untrustworthy"....

which can be reduced to "they are BLACK and unstrustworthy".......

and to me this was the undertone in all the media writing, the insinuations, whether from fans or pundits

and i think it was just DISGUSTING.

it is the same species of racist stuff that would say :

"blacks are not that intelligent..they are unable to learn things"....

and as far as the sisters were concerned:

"HOW DARE they be so dominant? they're BLACK for god's sake!"

and then since out there on court - they were beating white players in a sport that is so demonstrable of athletic talent and brilliance in playing - they must STILL be doing "something wrong" --

such as FIXING MATCHES...."after all , they're black and blacks can't be trusted".....

imo..that was an undertone in those accusations about "the williamses fixing matches".....

some circles just couldn't accept that the williamses actually were and are as good and great as they are.

and it is just disgusting that it even was a part of tennis .

RACISM - period.

HoiHa said...

Craig, loved your post!! You summed up so perfectly my thoughts on this. Thanks.

Aziz said...

I love the way you sum it all up, Craig.

I'm so sorry to say this but it is a shame to so called "America".

American Dream.

If those who chase their dream are still chucked according to colors.

And the fact that these two living legend sisters are THE ONLY AMERICAN LEFT IN TOP 10 WTA, not to mention with serena currently holding the top seat, what would you feel saying that "Oh! the best tennis player in the world right now is from america!" when you know that out there, still american themselves calling them with those filthy racial utterances.


MMT said...

"why would matches not be suspected as FIXED between the maleeva sisters?"

That's a good question - and I have another question to shed some light on it:

Without looking it up, what are the names of the Maleeva sisters' parents?

Craig Hickman said...

The Maleeva sisters' mother, Yulia Berberyan, was a tennis pro for Bulgaria. I can't remember the father's name other than that it's Maleev.

I'm not actually sure, though, how knowing or not knowing this sheds light on the question G_S asked.

Graf_sampras said...

i think the point in comparing the maleevas with williamses is that -- regardless of their different accomplishments -- the maleeva sisters were indeed a "family" playing and were , for a decade CELEBRATED in the tennis circles for being so...

i can NOT recall any talk, not even a whiff of it, that "because they are family they must be making private decisions on outcomes"......

their being family was cause for CELEBRATION as "good competition".

now -- SUDDENLY -- a black family produces two of the most DOMINANT and accomplished players EVER -- and what is the notion that accompanies them like a handbag?

"THEY are family , therefore they must be fixing matches".

what is the missing factor on the discrepancy of judgment?

the sisters are extremely accomplished AND BLACK.

hence - the insinuation, :

"They are so accomplished -- but they are they must be doing something WRONG..they can't be trusted because they are BLACK, BLACK , BLACK".

it's disgusting.

Graf_sampras said...

furthermore - unlike most other players before them -- where prominent players are concerned..the williamses did not exactly TREMBLE at the sight of Billie Jean King, or Pam Shriver, or Chris Evert or any of the usual "powers" that "define" WHAT the WTA is supposed to be, how the programs are supposed to run, how players are supposed to pay obeisance and "give their part to the support of the WTA" -- which in A CERTAIN way -- is also Billie Jean King's PLATFORM for HER own personal aggrandizement -- as if to say :

"THE WTA was created with the IDEAS and VIEWS and PRINCIPLES -- as handed down through the ages by the Wise Billie Jean King"........

that's FINE as it goes, there are PLENTY of worthy causes on which it stands....

but that does NOT mean that players have no minds of their own.

I do NOT forget that when Steffi Graf was a young champion , threatening the likes of Navratiova and Evert in their "DUO" Circus at the top of the game...and "Grooming" shriver and others -- graf "disturbed" their DARE SHE? and what's more -- DIDN"T want to "play along" with their political games and probably with their locker room sexual advances? how DARE SHE?

they also put out lots of negative stuff as a result.

but if they can do THAT with a WHITE girl for defying the "custom" of the USA run WTA --

how much MORE for defiant, in-your-face, new dominators -- who supplanted the "prefered" white girls being GROOMED as the next "american princesses?" (considering that capriati turned out to be a FAILURE and davenport had NO charisma whatsoever and played and looked more like a golf caddy in MEN[s golf than a graceful powerful athlete)

and these "SISTERS" happened to be BLACK?

how dare THEY NOT "come up the ranks" the way the WTA prefered?

and that instead -- it was the WTA that was forced to BEG the williamses ?

that was not allowed -- not in the days of graf as a young player....

and certainly NOT in the days of the williamses , who being BLACK DOMINATORS, made things WORSE, as far as the lilly white wta is concerned.

that's my view.

i have NO doubt that the Williamses would have been more "acceptable" if they ONLY TOOK THEIR FEET off the gas pedal in those 3 plus years of utter dominance -- and "let others win" TOO!!!


Graf_sampras said...

Eurosport blogger Simon Reed is looking forward to a fascinating men's tournament at Indian Wells.
TENNIS 2009 Australian Open Picasso Nadal Federer Murray - 0
More Stories

* Murray: Virus has hit my fitness
* Federer relishing Nadal rivalry

It's Indian Wells time again, and all the world's great players - with the exception of the Williams sisters - are playing in the biggest event, and indeed the first big test, since the Australian Open.

Yet sadly on the women's side, without Venus and Serena in attendance, it's hard to see it as much more than a shakeout of the best of the rest.

A lot of people's sympathies will be on the Williams sisters: the reason for their absence is that once again they're boycotting the event where they complained of racist chanting from the crowd a few years ago.

Many people will completely understand why they've made the decision.

It's a tough one for the WTA to handle, though. They brought in new rules this year which give them the right to fine players for not participating in several of the year's biggest events, which was the right thing to do for the sake of the fans (not to mention the TV companies) who love seeing the top players going up against each other.

And yet, just a few months into the first year of the new rules and they look like there will.

I imagine that there are all sorts of things going on behind the scenes between the sisters' representatives and the Tour - things that we'll probably never find out about - but it'll be difficult. They can't seem to be waiving the rules - but at the same time, they've never needed the Williamses more than they do now.

The draw looks a little thin without them. Dinara Safina is top seed and is rightly the favourite, because I don't think Jelena Jankovic is going anywhere fast at the moment.


that's the excerpt from a EUROSPORT article

Graf_sampras said...

since the WIlliamses appeared -- the WTA really has been about

the SISTERS and the rest....

and THAT"S why they were booed in indian wells...some "...merikkkans" just couldn't deal with it!

hasn't changed ! lol.

Graf_sampras said...

below is a comment of a fan on that article above=====


Simon's comments on the events are excusable. The­ world is about legal issues and pervasions. In the­ final analysis, if the WTA cannot make a firm decision­ to settle this racism in American history, then no one­ can. Obama can't even do that.
Black people have­ suffered racism from whites rule from time imemorial,­ being it in sport, economics, political and others, it­ is up to the world to make a change. The greatest­ culprits are the press.. There are world issues they­ don't bother to champion other than what suits­ them. The williams issues is a test of their resolve­ but there is now no way they can heal the wound­ inflicted, not by mere threats from WTA with finning.­ This is demeaning their Human Right. This is happening­ in American soils. These girls suffered the racism at­ the early stage in their career but we all turned our­ back on it. All these things will soon pass away as­ Apartheid was buried long ago in South Africa all­ perpetrated by White race..
From attaha, on Fri 13 Mar 11:21AM
0 thumbs(s) up

Graf_sampras said...

i am personally highly suspicious of the WTA rules of Fining players for not joining certain 'required' tournaments....

imo -- in the closed board rooms -- the UNDERLYING real reason for such a "sweeping rule" - OSTENSIBLY to "discipline players for the sake of the sport"

was REALLY the williams sisters for their turning away from Indian wells -- and that the powers that be say in private: THE WILLIAMSES are TICKET SELLERS and LEGITIMIZE the QUALITY of women's they DO when they are PRESENT in the grand slams........

BITTER as that acknowledgement might be to the powers even in the privacy of their discussions......

and so -- to "force" the sisters -- they came up with this.......not that it worked.

but i have no doubt that THIS played a central part of the decision for making the new rules.

and i have NO doubt the williamses see right through it...: that THEY are the real "target" to coerce them into going back to indian wells and "lend it" their star status!


MMT said...

Well done Craig - I'm (genuinely) impressed, as I myself did not know that!

My only point was that the Maleeva sisters weren't viewed as being the products of obnoxious domineering tennis parents because their parents kept out of the limelight and headlines. The same cannot be said for Richard Williams

And in the context of his quest to do the unprecedented and produce 2 world champions, and in the context of the many outrageous tennis parents that preceded him, I believe that is the reason, and the only reason, there was suspicions of match fixing.

Again, I disagree with that contention and am quite certain it's never been been corroborated by anyone or anything, and I concede it may have been propogated out of more than just a little resentment in the media (which was transmitted to tennis fans) for Richard Williams' behavior and rhetoric - well the sisters themselves didn't endear themselves to many with their boastful proclamations either, but I digress...

There is a huge difference between the Maleeva sisters, the Sachez-Vicario's, Bondarenkos and the Williams sisters - the Williams sisters are both world champions whose father was a pain in the you-know-what, and that leads to suspicion and unfortunately resentment.

Even with the Evert sisters and the McEnroe brothers, there was no allegation of match-fixing because one was (quite clearly) better than the other, and so no such suspicion could be contrived. It may have had, say Chris Evert or John McEnroe met their sibling in a grand slam final and just completely laid an egg and lost, then went out and beat the lights out of everyone else, but that never happened, but I digress...

The point is that the unique nature of the relationship with the sisters, the closeness of the family and the nature of the matches they did play (error and tension filled) in combination with their father's annoying omni-presence and very careful/watchful stewardship of their careers, lent itself to these allegations.

Sorry Oddman, but I'm repeating myself again, but I'm nothing if not consistent!

Craig Hickman said...

And in the context of his quest to do the unprecedented and produce 2 world champions, and in the context of the many outrageous tennis parents that preceded him, I believe that is the reason, and the only reason, there was suspicions of match fixing.


How often in life is anything as charged as this based upon only one reason or context? You've already provided two, related as they may be, in that short excerpt above.

In the context of America's racial history, which Richard Williams has seen close up and personal much more than I have, you simply can't rule out bigotry and racism. You just can't. You weren't there. You didn't hear all of what was said. You don't know all the facts.

Neither do I. And that is why I haven't ruled out even what you are suggesting and have asked far more questions than I've provided answers. You may choose to believe bigotry and racism had nothing whatsoever to do with those vociferous boos that never seemed to end, but you can't Rule. It. Out.

If it's dangerous to suggest what someone else's motivations are, it's just as dangerous to suggest what they are not.

But whatever you or anyone else chooses to believe about the reasons for the atmosphere, the tournament failed. The WTA failed.

Now I'm really done.

Beth said...

I am stupefied. I watched a lot of the clips, not adding up to the whole match, but a lot. This was beyond outrageous. Good for the WS for giving Indian Wells the finger. GOOD FOR THEM!

Graf_sampras said...

to me - it is racism.

the other "families" ALSO had displayed parents that were "domineering" and FAR FAR more boorish than richard williams could ever be even imagined to be.

have people forgotten CAPRIATI? DOKIC? LUCIC? these were examples of not just "domineering parents" but actually sent their own children running AWAY for safety.

now - if THAT was an issue about the williamses -- trying to define them along THOSE lines of "domineering" -- that is entirely OUT of the BALL PARK...they are nothing of sort and if anything , despite their divorce , had shown to be great examples of parents who cared and brought up their children properly and to be thinking on their own feet at the same time as well as SUCCEEDING in what they were brought up to be.

so -- with that out of the question, in an honest discussion -- the only remaining factor is:

richard williams and oracene (who was the "quiet one" and didn't go around like other parents or like richard talking openly) --

and the daughters committed the EGREGIOUS ERROR in american society

they DARED to be DIFFERENT just the WAY THEY ARE - and BE successful AT IT, rather then be homogeneized into the "american society" as "expected".....such as "come up through the ranks" with the "blessing of the WTA programs"..."not talking big about themselves"...

just "wait for accolades" rather than SAY "WE ARE GOOD".......

in short -- according to american "society" norms -- they were IMPOLITE enough to say what they wished to say and STAND UP FOR IT!

that's why they've had their share of detractors -- for all the WRONG , beastly and shameful and hypocritical reasons.

but then -- that IS typical of american society. sorry to say.

SEW said...

I wanted to give my perspective of this story as someone who was actually at this match. While I never heard any racist remarks, I was extremely disappointed as a tennis fan that I did not get to see the Williams sisters duel it out.

I think Craig makes an excellent point about the officials not doing enough to control the situation prior to the start of the match. I remember sitting in the stands and being shocked by the news that Venus was being replaced by Clijsters. Everyone booed because we wanted the Williams sisters to play! Can you blame us? Yes, I booed too, does that make me a racist? Hardly.

Again, I never heard any racist banter, but that doesn't mean it was not there; however I believe that the majority of the fans were just upset that they didn't get to see the match we had all been looking forward to watching.
It just seemed too convenient that Venus decided to sit out the final match against her sister, who had just come off a bad year of tennis.

Yes, I know that Venus' tendinitis has halted her from playing in the past, but she seemed to have no problem advancing through the rounds and winning the Ericsson Open several days later. Was Venus faking her injury to give Serena a boost? We'll never know.

It's an unfortunate situation, but it's not as black and white as people would like to believe. I don't blame Indian Wells for all of this, nor do I blame Venus. If vile people used racial epithets towards the Williams' I blame them for being morons.

dapxin said...

An interesting blow by blow sum up:

Sharing Cherie said...

Whether it was racism or not, the crowd's behavior was unacceptable. Period. The tournament should have done more, and maybe even the WTA. It was wrong. Wrong is wrong. IW won't even hang Serena's banner, yet people are claiming she and Venus should just play again as if nothing ever happened, with out so much as an apology? Not. A. Chance.