Did you happen to catch the trophy ceremony after the Serena Venus Final last evening? The Awards emcee made an interesting comment. Actually, he made the comment twice. The comment, directed at Serena Williams, was that Serena’s 23th Grand Slam Singles title that evening left her one shy of the all time record held by Australian great Margaret Court. Who is Margaret Court you might ask? She was absolutely the best player of her time, her career being evenly split between tennis’ amateur era and what we are in currently, the Open era.
Tennis fans who follow the game closely have been inundated with marketing, clearly stating Serena was one Slam away from breaking Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Slams. This has not been a debated issue. I can recall at no point during Serena’s chase any mention of Court and her great achievements from a couple generations ago. Which made the announcement from the Australian broadcaster somewhat unsettling. Why, of all times, was this being brought up now?
I follow this stuff pretty closely. Serena has been knocking on the door of Graf’s record for a couple years now. Entire marketing campaigns, from ESPN to the Tennis Channel, have been formulated around her quest to eclipse Graf’s career achievements. There has been no mention of Margaret Court and her number of titles. It has always been about catching Graf. So what happened here? How did Serena’s record breaking victory get demoted so cavalierly and without contest?
Tennis as a sport needs to respond promptly to this. For starters, this is one of the few times that tennis grabs the headlines of the everyday sports world. The world watches when Serena plays Venus with records at stake, especially when the insanely popular Federer and Nadal square off the following night. Tennis should be embarrassed having the entire ESPN broadcast be about Serena’s record breaking accomplishment only to have the Awards presenter reading from an entirely different script.
I know this is the era of alternative facts, but I was sort of hoping tennis could avoid this recent scourge upon intelligent discourse.
I brought these issues up almost in passing in a social media post this morning, which subsequently caught fire, with experts from all generations of the game weighing in on a variety of important points. I encourage you to read the comments section from my post; it is chock full of smart insights from some of tennis’ brightest
I have no skin in this debate whatsoever. What tennis needs to do and do soon is create some form of agreed upon standards by which records are established. For tennis’ march to its current state of professional play has been nothing short of convoluted. With multiple governing bodies, an “Open” era that only began in 1968, as well as multiple other restrictions made upon competition during tennis’ formative years, tennis is just asking for the controversies that come with this sort of confusion.
I feel bad for Serena. I feel even worse for Margaret Court, who for years has been listening to the tennis media discredit her accomplishments without as much as an explanation. At least acknowledge her properly, instead of the way she was thrown in to this debate last evening. Its not fair to her, its not fair to Serena, its incredibly negligent of tennis’ established media, and the tennis fan deserves better from all parties involved.