international tennis

On Women's Day 2017, a tribute to Serena and Venus for leading women's tennis from the forefront

The Williams sisters have ensured that their presence in women's tennis goes beyond mere involvement.

Back in 2016, on the day before Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka were to play the women’s singles final in Indian Wells, the then tournament director of the event, Raymond Moore, created quite a controversy for himself.

Moore, who was interviewed on the eve of the final, went on to say, “You know, in my next life, when I come back, I want to be someone in the Women’s Tennis Association because they ride on the coattails of the men. They [women’s players] don’t make any decisions, and they are lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born because they have carried this sport. They really have.”

Moore’s verbal overstepping in an attempt to come off as glib cost him his standing – and position – within the global tennis community. But, the harsh reality is that women’s tennis, in spite of the denigration it has experienced and overcome, continues to be regarded as an adjunct to its male counterpart. Though, now it has been couched overtly, lest the discussion veers out of control for moderation.

The Venus and Serena Williams factor

Play

Every Women’s Day, invariably, the women’s side of the game throws up a few customary names and a handful of anecdotes associated with them as a reminder of the acknowledgement of their contribution. This year, the retelling of such nostalgic description has been overseen by the Williams sisters, each of whom who has presented a divergent – yet – intersecting narrative to the tale of women’s tennis.

Though Serena Williams’ late withdrawal in Indian Wells has led to a reshuffling in the women’s draw, her decision to play again in the tournament in 2015 after having boycotted it for 14 years – even after two years – still sends off a powerful message. So does her sister, Venus’ decision to follow suit, ending a racially-motivated stand-off with inclusiveness.

Encompassing almost the length of the longevity of their careers, Venus and Serena Williams’s coming of age tennis story and their larger-than-life personalities is then gathered into a career – and life – defining nutshell, at the Indian Wells.

The handing of the baton

Play

It has been nearly forty-four years since Billie Jean King, an audacious and self-styled revolutionary, established the WTA with the intention to end the gender-based disparity in the two sections of the game, and towards enabling women’s tennis on an equal footing with that of the men’s, especially on the monetary front. The US Open, the first to acknowledge her initiative, helped partly achieve her objective when it offered parity in its prize money to both its men’s and women’s singles champions, commencing at the 1973 edition of the tournament.

While the Australian and French Opens followed suit, in the succeeding years, Wimbledon, much-coveted as it is steeped in its traditions, had no qualms in remaining the sole exception to the equal prize money debate for the longest running time.

And, in a way, its continuance to hold on to its traditional ways was also indicative of the players being (inadvertently) remiss in having the tournament face up to its responsibilities.

For, in the decades since Jean King left the mainstream tennis arena, while there had been no stopping of the influx of women entering the tennis domain, rarely was there a voice raised as stridently as the American towards effective bridging of this detractive gap, between one Major and the others.

That is, all except for Jean King’s fellow countrywoman and the elder Williams sibling, who took it upon herself to address the imbalance before finally getting the point across to the All England Club that organises the tournament, which too started awarding an equal prize cheque in 2007. Coincidentally, Venus Williams won that year, defeating France’s Marion Bartoli in the final.

Bridging the past and the future

Aside of the prize money aspect, while most players still maintain a stoic silence on topics that move away from tennis into the social diaspora, the Williams sisters are leading from the forefront there as well.

Then, be it the 23-time Grand Slam champion making pointed references to the sexist connotations prevalent in the current global society, and repeatedly challenging and questioning them head-on. Or be it the seven-time Major winner diffusing worrisome remarks about her racial heritage with her subdued elegance, without letting it affect her on-court performance.

Play

In that, the Williams’ are proving to be a bridge connecting tennis’ present and future to its seemingly long-lost past. Most specifically, to Althea Gibson, the player who changed the face of women’s tennis long before it could accept that it needed to be changed and in ways it hadn’t even considered modifying itself, extending beyond to just one special day in which to recount the absoluteness of its feel-good poignancy.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Children's Day is not for children alone

It’s also a time for adults to revisit their childhood.

Most adults look at childhood wistfully, as a time when the biggest worry was a scraped knee, every adult was a source of chocolate and every fight lasted only till the next playtime. Since time immemorial, children seem to have nailed the art of being joyful, and adults can learn a thing or two about stress-free living from them. Now it’s that time of the year again when children are celebrated for...simply being children, and let it serve as a timely reminder for adults to board that imaginary time machine and revisit their childhood. If you’re unable to unbuckle yourself from your adult seat, here is some inspiration.

Start small, by doodling at the back page of your to-do diary as a throwback to that ancient school tradition. If you’re more confident, you could even start your own comic strip featuring people in your lives. You can caricaturise them or attribute them animal personalities for the sake of humour. Stuck in a boring meeting? Draw your boss with mouse ears or your coffee with radioactive powers. Just make sure you give your colleagues aliases.

Pull a prank, those not resulting in revenue losses of course. Prank calls, creeping up behind someone…pull them out from your memory and watch as everyone has a good laugh. Dress up a little quirky for work. It’s time you tried those colourful ties, or tastefully mismatched socks. Dress as your favourite cartoon characters someday – it’s as easy as choosing a ponytail-style, drawing a scar on your forehead or converting a bath towel into a cape. Even dinner can be full of childish fun. No, you don’t have to eat spinach if you don’t like it. Use the available cutlery and bust out your favourite tunes. Spoons and forks are good enough for any beat and for the rest, count on your voice to belt out any pitch. Better yet, stream the classic cartoons of your childhood instead of binge watching drama or news; they seem even funnier as an adult. If you prefer reading before bedtime, do a reread of your favourite childhood book(s). You’ll be surprised by their timeless wisdom.

A regular day has scope for childhood indulgences in every nook and cranny. While walking down a lane, challenge your friend to a non-stop game of hopscotch till the end of the tiled footpath. If you’re of a petite frame, insist on a ride in the trolley as you about picking items in the supermarket. Challenge your fellow gym goers and trainers to a hula hoop routine, and beat ‘em to it!

Children have an incredible ability to be completely immersed in the moment during play, and acting like one benefits adults too. Just count the moments of precious laughter you will have added to your day in the process. So, take time to indulge yourself and celebrate life with child-like abandon, as the video below shows.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of SBI Life and not by the Scroll editorial team.