Talk about bad timing: this week’s Friday Feature, on Serena Williams and her march to the Grand Slam, had barely hit the site before I got the news that Williams had been upset in her U.S. Open semifinal against Roberta Vinci.
Or maybe it’s not bad timing. I fully expected Williams to win her match, and the final to claim the Slam, but, as I wrote in today’s piece, it’s not necessarily the worst thing of all if she lost.
Undoubtedly, Vinci’s victory over Williams is a stunning upset–the only real upset possible in the women’s draw. That was the case made in the Feature: the women’s field is so weak that you could hardly imagine Serena not fulfilling her Slam potential this weekend.
But, as I also pointed out in that piece, Williams losing might be for the best. It certainly puts her accomplishments so far into perspective; even against such a lack of forceful competition, winning each major tournament in a year requires an effort of heroic proportions. Today’s match underscores how, on a given day, when everything doesn’t bounce right for you, an underdog can still come out and beat you.
I will confess that upon reading the news, I did feel a glimmer of increased admiration for Williams. I’m not particularly a fan of the lady, but I can still feel a trace of empathy for someone so close to an historic accomplishment who is ultimately denied. And, as noted, we are reminded of how difficult a perfect record is to achieve. Finally, Vinci’s win also reaffirms that, yes, despite appearances to the contrary, there is still some measure of competition out there in these matches and in the sport of women’s tennis as a whole.
And that was the point of today’s piece, and indeed, it’s the point of much of what gets published on the DFR: competitiveness is an absolute necessity. Routs, beating up on patsies, dominant teams, unbeatable players–all of that means there’s something wrong with the game, not something right. Today, most observers did not get the result they wished in the women’s draw of the U.S. Open–but they got the result that actually meant something, and in the long run that’s the result that everyone should root for.
Oh, and one other thing: do note that I write the Friday Features on the Thursday nights prior to publication–so please don’t think I’m too stupid for posting a commentary on Serena Williams winning while she was in the process of losing.