This is not to doubt Serena Williams has been, and is, a terrific tennis player. She's won a lot of stuff over the years. Indeed, after having won the first 3 "majors" this year, Serena was on pace to complete the first calendar grand slam for a female tennis player since Steffi Graf pulled it off in 1988. Some guy named Reagan was still in the White House. Let's just say that was a while back. But when it came to class, and certainly humility, Ms. Williams has always been sorely lacking as a professional.
On the rare occasions she lost, there was always an excuse forthcoming. Maybe it was cramps -- or a headache -- or her back/toe/knee/shoulder/eyeballs -- pick your body part -- hurt. Or perhaps Mother Nature had conspired against her. It was too hot/cold/humid/windy/cloudy -- pick your weather condition. At any rate, it was always something. Serena could never bring herself to say the other player beat her fair and square.
This time around at the US Open, only unranked and mostly unheard of Italian Roberta Vinci stood in her way in the semi-finals. The bookies had Serena as somewhere around a 300:1 favorite. It was supposed to be a cakewalk, but it didn't turn out that way.
Undaunted, Vinci methodically, and convincingly defeated Williams in three sets. Though it may have been considered a monumental upset in the betting world, anybody that watched the match clearly saw this was no fluke. Serena indeed got beat fair and square in front of a world-wide audience. Every time Williams would rally, the pundits thought the end was inevitable. But then back would come Vinci.
What was comical was listening to some of the aghast Serena favoring talking heads that were looking for a way to explain it. The wind was blowing a bit. There was a shadow on the court -- maybe. Never mind this was during broad daylight, and both players obviously have to play on the same court, often switching ends -- this was not supposed to happen. But it did. The big muscle bound goof had gone down to defeat. Break out the prosciutto, pop a bottle of the finest red, and bring on the linguine. The Italian Stallionette had moved into the Finals.
Further telling was Williams' post match press conference. Far be it from Serena to ever compliment an opposing player, especially after she's been bested by such an adversary. Sure, no losing player looks forward to facing the press after getting beat, but some handle it with class. Not Serena.
In an incredibly obtuse statement, on a couple different fronts, Serena said Roberta Vinci, at the "advanced" age of 33, was going for it. Well, no kidding. Don't most players in tournaments try to win their matches? Hello??? Besides, the fact that Vinci had waded through a world-class field to win her first five matches should have been a hint that she's playing pretty well.
And here's the kicker(s). If, according to Serena, Vinci is at the "advanced age" of 33, then what does that make Serena herself? She'll turn 34 in a couple weeks. BTW, Serena even had Vinci's age wrong,. Roberta is 32. So if Roberta is "advanced", then Serena must a veritable geezer. Evidently, that little tidbit of irony was lost on the clueless Ms. Williams. It leaves one to wonder what she thinks of her sister Venus, who is a decrepit 35.
So after all the hype, there will be no grand slam for Serena Williams this year. She could scream and grunt all she wanted, destroy and throw a racket, and otherwise act like a spoiled child that was denied what they thought they were "entitled" to. In the end, she just got outsmarted and outplayed by a superior opponent on a particular day. It happens.
But Serena will never ever admit to such a thing, much less offer genuine congratulations and best wishes to one that has dispatched her.
Oh no. That requires class. Serena Williams may have a roomful of trophies and go down as one of the best players of all time -- but being a class act in defeat has always been beyond her capabilities.
For that matter, jumping up and down like a chimpanzee chock full of 'roids on the court after a victory has never been exactly lady-like either. Alas, some things and people just are what they are.
An all Italian ladies US Open tennis final, neither player being ranked in the top 25 in the world.
Dang. Who would have thunk it?