Thursday, January 27, 2005

No Love for Serena!

…sounds from the Australian Open

by Guichard Cadet

Serena vs. Sharapova in a Grand Slam tennis semifinal needs no special build-up, no villain. Last night, listening to the commentary provided on ESPN2, Mary Carrillo and Dick Enberg, one would think Serena stole something, and did not deserve to be there.

A day after defending her sister and family’s name with the statement, ‘we have nothing to prove’, Serena Williams found herself playing an error-filled first set.

Throughout this first set, viewers had to hear Carrillo commenting how Serena’s forehand and serve were not technically correct. Though the analysis was not totally unfounded, Carrillo clearly showed her agenda when she stated: the days of just being able to overpower opponents has passed.

She made it sound as if the Williams sisters’ brand of tennis was simply beast, and had no beauty.

In a match that Williams won 2-6; 7-5; and 8-6, at no time did either commentator note, perhaps Serena was over-hitting the ball due to the pressure of having to beat not only her opponent, but also outside forces.

The telecast was one of the most absurd sports cheerleading sessions I’ve ever witnessed. It left no room for the average fan to simply watch and marvel two spectacular championship level players.

Coming into any tournament, I have my preference – Serena. But, that is not to say, I cannot appreciate the smooth yet powerful efficiency of Sharapova’s game.

Dick Enberg usually provides a balance account of events, which could have neutralized Carrillo’s glee of seeing Serena struggling so badly in the first set. Enberg was not able to do so because his eyes and ears were solely focused on Sharapova’s grunting, each time she hit the ball.

At one point, Enberg even stated that if we turned off the visuals…it would sound like a torture chamber. They obviously were not considering the viewers listening to their reporting.

Serena’s comeback had effectively silenced Carrillo, perhaps sending her to a bathroom break, like the one the players took to get some relief from Australia’s heat and humidity.

The third set started with the players exchanging breaks, and Sharapova’s sound effects had calmed. Dick kept questioning her silence, barely linking it to fatigue; and that perhaps she was saving energy, knowing this final set would go to the wire.

When the match was over, sideline reporter Pam Shriver had the honors of interviewing a joyous Serena.

Shriver had been filling the dead space of the telecast with gems like Sharapova was clearly in Serena’s head. Her body language spoke volumes, the muted silence of someone who could not eat all the words she had served in writing Serena’s (and Venus) tennis obituary.

Asked which of the other semifinalists she’d rather face, Serena showed true grace. She lauded Lindsay Davenport because she was a fellow American, great player and someone who has always been nice to her on the tour.

It should be a great match.


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