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I was watching the Australian Open last night and I all I can say is that I am highly disappointed. In what started out as a great match between Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens quickly turned into something that Serena should be ashamed of. Being a “tennis player” myself I can understand the frustration and the ups and downs of the game. But some things are simply unacceptable.

The Scene: Serena is ahead and it appears she is going to win in two sets when she lands awkwardly and hurts her back. She then struggled through the rest of the second set (which she lost) and receives medical attention. In the third set, she continues to play (which I will say is admirable) but is playing poorly (and her usually amazing serve is gone). After losing a game early in the set, Williams decides to let her frustrations out on her racquet – hitting it twice on the court and then throwing it under her bench.

In a quote from SI.com, “Did you see it?” Williams asked after the match. “I even had a wry smile on my lips after that. It made me happy, unfortunately.”

Really? Really Serena?

Serena is a role model for many U.S. tennis players and displaying that kind of behavior on the tennis court shows a real lack of appreciation for her fans and the kids (and adults) that admire her and her game. In my opinion Serena needs to apologize to her fans and work on setting a better example. As noted in a recent blog by Alison, titled Media Training Outliers, we know that most athletes don’t go “off script” but I think in this case Serena needs to, or she is going to lose many of her longtime fans, if she hasn’t already.

What are your thoughts on Serena’s actions?

Rachel Brockway
Rachel Brockway
Senior Account Executive Rachel is a native Arizonian, who enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, playing tennis, reading and social media. She’s a busy mom and is passing the idea of volunteerism onto her son. Check out Rachel's Full Bio

15 Comments

  1. Alison Bailin says:

    Excellent point – and yes, she was a poor sport. But, the reasons these people are at the level they are at (and we are sitting comfortably in our offices where we are nice and make jokes and rise each other up) is that they have a fire in themselves that burns hotter than the sun. These freaks of nature often, and disappointingly, act like freaks!

  2. Billie Walls says:

    I am not strong into watching tennis matches, but will watch when I know Serena will be playing. I think that she needs to apologize and then at least try to set a good example for all of her fans ( young and old). Good sportmanship is an important aspect of all sports.

  3. Roslyn Harrison says:

    It’s always disappointing to see someone let their anger and frustration get the better of them. It is also very human. Yes, Serena needs to work harder at being a better role model. And, yes, an apology is in order (she also needs to make amends with herself since that is who she is so mad at).
    The stakes are high for Serena, and so is the spirit of competition. I’m not saying that I condone her behavior, but I do understand it to some degree, and I am able to forgive her.
    At least Serena has passion. I’ll take that over complacency any day.

  4. Stephanie Petrilli says:

    Interesting post, Rachel!

    Serena is one of the best players in the history of the game, and I hate how she is always in the media for sportsmanship issues.

    Such behavior is commonplace by so many other athletes, and I feel like Serena is characterized because of her race and gender. And because tennis can be a little stuffy. I don’t have problems with her behavior, and love how she is changing the sport.

  5. Joy says:

    I’m going to take Allison’s “freak of nature” angle and run with it, although I’m sure this isn’t going to be the popular opinion. I mean…talk about pressure for these athletes.

    Are tantrums like this acceptable in professional sports? Or rather, SHOULD they be? Probably not. I think that as a professional, that caries with it some expectations on how to behave in the public eye. However, I don’t think that followers of Serena or the sport should be judgmental nor reconsider their fan status. I didn’t personally see the match, but it sounds like an incredibly frustrating turn of events for her. It makes sense for someone in that position to momentarily lose their cool. I figure if the anger isn’t directed at any one else (such as opponent or a spectator), it’s excusable. Perhaps her casual response to the incident was a way to downplay the event. Nobody would truly be PROUD of that moment, but being able to laugh it off (since nobody was hurt) might be the easiest way she saw to move past it.

  6. Mark Roden says:

    I think its ok. She needed a release and found one through a racket…no harm, no foul.

    Maybe if she actually PAID for those rackets 🙂

  7. Katie says:

    I did not see this match but don’t think she will be losing any fans over one bent racket. While I believe that sports figures should conduct themselves a certain way both on and off the court/field, I also think it is ridiculous for us to think they aren’t going to get frustrated, upset etc. I mean they might be SUPER ATHLETES but are not super humans. Personally, I like when athletes show emotion- gives me something to talk about on Facebook.

    With that being said, in many professional sports there are often boundaries that can’t be crossed. Obviously because I am a basketball fan, their rules are the first thing that comes to mind. When on the court these players can’t really argue about calls with the referees. Even if they disagree- throwing a tantrum or expressing their emotions could land them with a technical foul or in many cases a fine.

    • Joy says:

      Katie,
      I agree. I think tantrums resulting from disagreements with officials is one thing. I think the majority of sports (are there any that don’t?) have strict rules against acting out if you disagree with a call. I think had there been another person involved here, a penalty would have been appropriate. However, I don’t see any problem with this particular instance. Maybe her response afterwards was questionable, but I’ll just say…”no harm, no foul”. Ha ha.

  8. Tanja says:

    I can get being a bit pissed to have a match pretty much in the bag and then end up losing, but c’mon – a little bit of sportsmanship isn’t too much to ask.

    To contrast: look at this photo of Tsonga after he lost a 5-setter to Federer this morning.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151438375568615&set=a.165541748614.147377.48160623614&type=1&theater

  9. Rhoda Sylvester says:

    Her actions were inexcusable and until we the ‘non’ professional’s quit letting this kind of behavior go without consequences our children/grandchildren will see nothing wrong in this type of behavior.

  10. Stephanie Lough says:

    I understand and agree that famous athletes are human and will have these sort of “human” moments, but what irks me is what she said in the post-match interview. She might as well have said “Sorry I’m no sorry.” We all have those moments, but should never be proud of them.

  11. Becky Conner says:

    Athletes of that caliber have put everything they have into reaching the top. We don’t know exactly how much pain she was actually playing through. We have all seen exceptional athletes have their dreams taken because of injuries. Serena has worked hard to become the player she is today and to think that one move could have ended her career would be very heartbreaking. As a mother of children who have done very well in their chosen sports, we have experienced both injuries and temper tantrums. For the tantrums there were consequences and maybe Serena should have a consequence. All in all, no maybe she shouldn’t have reacted the way she did but until all details are known, it is just our opinion.

  12. Scott Hanson says:

    John McEnroe-like. Not so good.

  13. John Shields says:

    It is unfortunate that althletes “melt down” when things aren’t going their way. They are in the spoltlight and impressionable kids are watching their every move. And especially now that the media is so eager to publicize the drama of human beiings is another reason to always keep your composure no matter what is going on inside your head. Serena and Venus have really elevated women’s tennis in America and have been great role models for young women all over the world. I always enjoy watching them especially now that we are lacking male tennis players in the upper ranks. Serena’s lack of composure will take some time to forget but what is most important is the American Sloane Stephens who was the victor in the match and how great she is! We now have a new hero to watch and root for and I am expecting great things from her. Did you see that match that Sloane played against Azarenka 9shame on Azarenka for faking the injuries)? While Sloane looked tired after having played the day before when she beat Serena, her forehand is surely a weapon the other players should be very, very scared of! And talk about speed!!!

  14. Lucas Greene says:

    Ranked number one in the world among female tennis professionals in 2002, Serena Williams had become one of the sport’s most exciting and closely watched young players. With her older sister Venus, she formed half of a tennis-prodigy pair that had been making headlines from an early age. As an African American in an historically white- and European-dominated sport, she found herself in the spotlight and under scrutiny . Serena and Venus Williams were coached by their father, Richard, an unorthodox career-builder whose methods stirred comment and controversy. Beyond all these reasons Serena Williams caught the attention of tennis fans simply because she was a player of extraordinary ability and dynamism. She rose to the very top of her game achieving the No. 1 ranking among female tennis players in the world in 2002 and winning seven Grand Slam events by 2005.

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