Saturday, July 14, 2018

Call her Angie. Call her KareBear. Call her Wimbledon champion!

Angelique Kerber won her third major today when she defeated Serena Williams 6-3, 6-3 in the Wimbledon women's final. Kerber is now one major--the French Open--shy of having a Career Slam, and, given her expertise on clay courts, it's certainly possible that she'll accomplish that feat.

I considered this match a toss-up from the beginning. Yes, Williams has been amazing at this tournament, but there were other factors to be considered. One is that, until she reached the final, she had not encountered a human wall such as Kerber. Another factor is that Kerber had already beaten Williams in a final, which had to be a real confidence-booster. And finally--Kerber had lost a Wimbledon final to Williams, and that fact had to be highly motivating for the German star.

Obviously, Williams was not at her best in this final. She seemed frozen at times. But, at the same time, Kerber was spot-on almost every moment. Consider that she hit only five unforced errors in the match. Kerber's ability to run down balls, combined with her laser-like accuracy, took her all the way to the championship, in which she lost only one set. She also emerged with very respectable 70/59 first/second serve win percentages. And it was her down-the-line shots that did the damage at crucial moments.

Every match has a context (though you wouldn't know it by reading social media posts). And a big part of the context of this match was that Williams not only gave birth ten months ago, but almost died in the process. That she was suddenly in the Wimbledon final at all is a testament to her force-of-nature persona, her self-belief and her extreme athletic prowess. She lost this one, but we probably won't have to wait long for her to win her 24th singles major.

There's also a dramatic context regarding Kerber. In 2016, she "came out of nowhere" (not true, but you know the sports media) to win the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, become the Wimbledon runner-up, and grab a silver medal at the Olympic Games. Then, in 2017, she experienced a year-long flop. But this year, having made changes she thought were appropriate, she returned, looking more and more like herself every month. It was only a matter of time until she did something big--six months, to be exact.

There has been a lot of contentious discussion about the postponement of this final, which has included a lot of contentious discussion about the men playing best-of-five with no fifth set tiebreak at Wimbledon. I have a whole lot to say about this (and have already said some of it), but I don't want to use this post about two great champions to say it. Well, except for two things:

1. The incredible barrage of misogyny on social media is heartbreaking.

2. The "you're upset about wealthy players' tennis matches is ridiculous when there are so many other problems in the world, including wonen's problems" enrages me. Rich or poor, tennis or anything else, it's about equality. For example:

Those of us who object to sexist language (and women are still using it to attack sexism, which drives me mad, like the Twitter post about Wimbledon's needing to "grow a pair" and give women their due--sorry, but courage is simply not an exclusively male attribute) vehemently challenge the "it's just language" dismissal. Language is the most important medium of exchange we have. It isn't about "language"--it's about equality.

One of the other favorites in my country is the dismissal of "women in the U.S. don't know how well off they have it." Yes, we do. It's about equality.

Now back to something more pleasant: The remarkable Angie Kerber, long considered a journeywoman, is now a three-time major champion. And the remarkable, totally stunning sportswoman, Serena Williams, is back and playing very well.

And to all the people (you know who you are) who consider women's tennis (and women's sports, in general) inferior because it isn't men's sports: In the interest of fairness and human evolution, maybe you need to grow a pair--of X chromosomes.


Nondisposable Johnny said...

All your points are valid of course Diane...My own pet peeve with any match Serena loses is the inevitable "so what was wrong with Serena today" dialogue which often dominates the discussion even while the match is going on. The difference between Serena today and the previous two rounds (the only ones I was able to see) was simple: The balls that didn't come back kept coming back.

FYI: I don't know if this is something you'd want to try, but my app only allowed me to watch the matches in Spanish from the quarters on. Except for the occasional catharsis provided by shouting at disembodied voices emanating from glowing screens, I didn't miss a thing.

Diane said...

Agreed, Johnny. Nothing at this Wimbledon prepared Serena for Kerber. Kerber knows how to beat Serena. That's not a terrible thing!

I've never watched an entire match in Spanish, but I have watched parts of matches in broadcast in various languages, and you're right--I didn't miss anything. Some of the world-wide (English language) commentators are pretty good, but when it comes down to having to watch ESPN, the quality declines.

colt13 said...

It wasn't just the Women's final. The women's doubles was TBD, while two legends matches were scheduled for court 1.

Probably ended they way it should have. From the Bencic match on, Kerber has played like a champ.

Diane said...

Oh, I know. Like I said, there's a whole lot I could say, but I'm holding back because I need to chill out about it.

Yes, Kerber had a Wimbledon (at least one) in her, and now was as good a time as any. I'm really happy for her; no one has worked harder to make herself a champion.

CLT said...

Notwithstanding your comments in the other post about fans, and I am not a particular fan of anyone or a hater of anyone, I have to say that I am feeling uncomfortable about the way Serena has been positioned/has positioned herself in all of this. Somehow Wimbledon seems to be all about Serena and isn't she marvellous and blah blah. Clearly she is a very good tennis player, and she still seems to be after having a child, which is great. But there are plenty of other good tennis players, and plenty of other tennis players who have had children. It's not like she is a god or something. I guess I have never been that big on heroes and it seems like Serena thinks she is the biggest hero of all for doing what a large percentage of women do. I would also suspect the "almost died" trope she is pushing. I am familiar with medical conditions which lead to blood clots and if you get them it isn't that you "almost die" it's that you have a risk of the clot killing you, but if you have a clot and it doesn't kill you, you don't "almost die" you just have a clot, which needs to be treated with blood-thinning drugs.

Diane said...

Some of us did complain that the media (and in the U.S., ESPN in particular) barely noticed that Angie was even in the final because they had turned the event into The Serena Show. I do think this is mainly a media-generated thing, and for ESPN, it’s business as usual.

Serena’s original blood clot really was dangerous; I can’t really speak for the more recent complication.