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Serena Williams is an all-time great – but is it wrong not to declare her the greatest?

Once upon a time sport was not political. Nowadays expressing anything that can be construed as orthodoxy is hate speech

12 September 2015

9:00 AM

12 September 2015

9:00 AM

Serena Williams, according to some commentators the greatest woman who has ever graced this earth of ours, will complete the calendar year of grand-slam tennis by winning the United States Open. At least that is what I expect will have happened (I am writing this column before the final has been played).

Even to my trained eye, she looks pretty much unbeatable, although tennis is a game in which one’s mind can play tricks galore. The reason I prefer martial sports is simple: it’s slam, bang, and either you are put to sleep or you give the other guy a bit of a rest. Not much brainpower is needed.

I spent 50 years playing competitive tennis, both on the circuit and on the veterans’ tour. I hated every minute of it when I was on court. There was too much time to think.

And the mind does tend to wander, especially mine. I was absolutely no good as a match player. I used to get distracted, looking at the fans in the stands and dreaming about the consequences of a victory against an opponent with a beautiful girlfriend, you get my gist. Mind you, I had good strokes, especially my backhand, and could run with the best of them. But with a few exceptions I never lived up to expectations. When I won the Sudan open in 1959, the president of the Sudanese tennis association who handed me the cup predicted I would win Wimbledon. I never passed a round at SW19, so that shows what a crystal-ball genius he was.

But back to Serena, the greatest female since the Sumerian high priestess that invented the written word 4,000 years ago. Now some of what I’m about to say might sound racist to you, but it’s not meant to be. Anyway, even if it is, so what? I’m a Christian first and then slightly racist. Not enough, however, to slight Serena’s achievements on the court, just the idolatry of the sportswriters and other know-nothings who cover her, especially in the Land of the Freebie and the

Home of the Depraved. Here’s a black female, a cancer survivor, as she calls herself, writing in the New York Times: ‘Imagine that you have to contend with critiques of your body that perpetuate racist notions that black women are hypermasculine and unattractive.’ And then there’s this: ‘Imagine that …there were so many bad calls against you, you were given as one reason video replay needed to be used on the courts…’ Really? I was aware of Serena saying to a tiny oriental lineswoman, ‘I swear to God I’m fucking going to take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat,’ but not that she had been unfairly singled out for bad line calls. Never mind, it was written by a black cancer survivor in the Times, so it must be true. But it gets better. The writer goes to watch Serena play in the finals of the US Open a couple of years ago, where our heroine is playing Vika Azarenka, a sexy Belarusian. She notices that the man next to her is rooting for the sexy one.

‘We’re at the US Open,’ she tells him. ‘Why are you cheering for the player from Belarus?’

The man, an American, gets up and leaves. He was probably the kind that wears both a belt and braces, or suspenders, as our American cousins call them. Why look for trouble, I suppose he told himself. Only a nutter would ask why one roots for a certain player. But the nutter is given a full page in the New York Times to write how unfair our white society has been to …yes, you guessed it, Serena Williams. As some would say, you couldn’t make it up.

Then there’s the Serena look, and the question of why white corporate America has chosen Eugenie Bouchard, a real looker, instead of Serena as a poster gal. Some immediately called it racist; I call it common sense. Eugenie is a beautiful, softly spoken 19-year-old blonde. She shows avian grace floating around the court, as Steffi Graff did once upon a time. Serena bludgeons the ball and throws herself around the court like a Panzer. Nothing racist in that — I loved the Panzers, especially when they were going through French lines — but try and tell that to the race Gestapo. One’s a plough horse, the other a thoroughbred — advertisers prefer the latter to the former, c’est tout. All I know is that this constant onslaught of accusations of racism can be extremely tiresome as well as totally unbelievable. It has become as predictable as Serena’s French coach leaving his wife and children for far richer fields of conquest.

Serena’s father’s autobiography doesn’t mention tennis until 150 pages in. Up to that point it is an account of ‘his acts of defiance against white people’ — his words. He calls Christmas a holiday created by and for white people, and says that the fact that his daughters are good runners is due to his own running away from white oppressors in the south. What I find surprising is that the book did not win a Pulitzer prize in view of the race climate in America and Europe at present. He also attributes his daughters’ dazzling deeds to his gathering of ghetto children to shout racial slurs at them as they practised. Yeah, right, and Taki might still win Wimbledon.

Once upon a time sport was not political. Nowadays expressing anything that can be construed as orthodoxy is hate speech. Ever the Luddite, I disagree. Serena is an all-time great, but I’ll pick Steffi and Eugenie over her, one on grace, the other on looks. See ya!

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