WTA Should End Injury Charade, Implement 'Serena Rules'
It is a Band-Aid, neatly placed just above her foot. If that's not proof that, this time, her injury is legit, and that she's not just trying to circumvent tennis tour rules to get out of tournaments again, then I don't know what is.
Yes, that was sarcasm. In fact, Williams could have placed a clear Band-Aid there for her photo shoots, or something else that wouldn't show, so this was meant to send a message to the world that yes, you can believe her.
This is getting embarrassing. Last year, Williams showed up at mandatory tournaments and lost early on purpose, just to go home. That's my opinion, at least. This year, she seems to have a new game plan: pretending to be hurt to avoid those tournaments.
Look, it's time to stop the charade. If Williams just doesn't want to play tournaments other than majors, then fine.
Let her. She has earned it. She's the tour's money-maker, especially in the U.S.
She is not going to commit her life to tennis. And women's tennis absolutely cannot be without her.
So compromise. Create the Serena Rules. Anything to keep her playing majors as long as possible, yet not feeling the need to lose on purpose or fake injuries.
Her Wimbledon win this month was thrilling only because it was her. She blew through a bunch of no-names -- the exception being her tough victory over Maria Sharapova -- and hid the fact that the game has, well, a bunch of no-names.
Everyone must be in on this charade, including the WTA Tour. Or maybe the tour just doesn't know what it can do. Either way, the fans aren't in on it. And they keep buying tickets for a show that's not happening.
Last year, I wrote to complain that Williams was not Tiger Woods, when she could be even bigger. That idea sounded a lot different then than it does now. It used to be about failure to reach potential and to send the most powerful of any female athlete, in a global sport.
But Williams is not Woods, and that's testimony to her now. We've seen too many examples of superstar athletes and celebrities like Woods, going through a childhood dedicated to one task, with no balance. Then, they burn out, or show that they don't know how to be adults.
Williams is 28, and after winning her fourth Wimbledon this month, her dominance of women's tennis is stronger than ever.
"I'm still very interested in doing different things,'' she said. "I've never really cared what people say, how they said whether I should be playing tennis and hitting balls, or whatever ...
"If I was happy winning or losing or whatever, then that's my life. My thing is, I love my dogs, I love my family, I love going to the movies, I love reading, I love going shopping.''
That is her recipe.
This foot injury will prevent her from playing four matches for World TeamTennis. After her first scheduled match, people were asking for their money back.
That's the part of this that bugs me about what Williams is doing. She makes commitments, as she did to the Fed Cup late last year, and then shows so little regard to ticket-buying fans or the people she gave her word to.
All Williams says about her foot is that she cut it while stepping on glass. She offers no other details or doctor's thoughts. She does have the Band-Aid.
Isn't it possible she's really hurt? Sure it is. But someone cries wolf enough times and you stop believing, stop listening.
Meanwhile, Williams did manage to play an exhibition against Kim Clijsters in Belgium. How could she play that day on the bad foot?
"Those Belgian waffles, and doctors,'' she said.
I wonder if her appearance fee, likely around $1 million, had anything to do with it?
Meanwhile, the tour, TeamTennis and Fed Cup officials just let Williams run over them by begging and pleading for her.
Tour rules are complicated. But basically, they require a top 10 player to play 10 tournaments -- most of them specified. If they meet the requirements, then they are eligible for a bonus pool. Last year, Jelena Jankovic earned $1 million from the pool.
If players don't go to the mandatory tournaments, they are fined and can be suspended.
But there are ways around those penalties. Players can make appearances within 150 miles of an event. Or, if they have a lengthy injury -- I believe it's eight weeks away -- they also avoid fines.
There is no way to verify a player's injuries, and all tennis players are hurt to some extent anyway. So anyone can claim a lengthy injury.
The thing that's hard to determine is the "what if" side of these requirements. What if Williams simply said she wasn't on the tour anymore, but would play majors -- which are not run by the tour?
Williams would lose her ranking entirely, and would have to rely on wildcards, free entries. It's a good bet she'd get them.
Looking back, Williams played the tour championships at the end of last year, was too tired for Fed Cup, was healthy for the Australian Open, had sore knees the next few months, was healthy for the French and Wimbledon, and now, is hurt again.
A guess: She'll be fine for the U.S. Open.
Just stop it. Let her play when she wants. And if it helps, throw in the Belgian waffles.
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