Work in Sports
Serena gets back in the groove
Posted: Wednesday June 28, 2000 09:00 PM
By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated
Williams' game, on the other hand, hasn't missed a beat. In a thoroughly dominating performance she pulverized Yvonne Basting Wednesday -- a Basting pasting, as it were -- beating her Dutch opponent 6-0, 6-1 in 35 minutes. It was far less time, she admitted later, than it takes for her to braid her hair. It wasn't exactly an indomitable foe she faced, but her performance was nevertheless awesome. Her serve, in particular, was often quite literally untouchable. "I was popping it today," she said. "Sometimes I just had to pinch myself. That's how it was going at the [1999 U.S.] Open."
Despite the score, Serena wasn't wholly thrilled with her day. She was kicking herself -- lightly, to be sure -- for the lapse that enabled Basting to win her only game. And she pointed out that she could still stand to heed her father's advice and get to the net more often. Overall, though, could she really have played much better? "Yeah, for sure," she said. "I think there's still so much room for improvement."
It's precisely this type of analysis that leads a legion of observers, including John McEnroe recently, to remark that Williams needs a generous dose of humility. Here she is, after all, winning the quickest match of the tournament so far and she's still maintaining it wasn't a command performance.
But we can't have it both ways. When she shows little interest in tennis and her confidence wanes, we accuse her of flouting her gifts. When she takes her game (ruthlessly) seriously and is still striving for improvement after a near-flawless match, she's arrogant. As she correctly observes, pride is too often mistaken for cocksure in women's tennis. "A lot of guys out there [betray a swagger] and say a lot of things," she said. "If a lady comes out and says it, it's totally different."
Jeff Tarango added another bizarre incident to his list when he declined to shake hands with Paul Goldstein after losing their epic five-set match. His barely comprehensible explanation was that Goldstein had the bad form to request a trainer prior to one of Tarango's service games. Later, moments after he made the preposterous allegation that Goldstein was faking his injury, Tarango was asked whether he had ever approached Goldstein, a fellow Stanford product, and offered him advice. Tarango's response: "To say what? Welcome to the locker room. Don't bend over for the soap?" ... Vince Spadea's winning streak came to a halt Wednesday. He fell to Albert Portas in straight sets. ... The upset of the day wasn't Olivier Rochus beating third-seeded Magnus Norman in five sets. Rather, it was Vladimir Voltchkov, a former junior champ, taking out former finalist Cedric Pioline. ... On the women's side, fourth-seeded Conchita Martinez was bounced by Canadian Sonya Jeyaseelan. ... Gianni Pozzi, the oldest player left in the tournament not named Navratilova, advanced in straight sets over Alex O'Brien.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Jon Wertheim will be filing daily reports from Wimbledon.