A LETTER TO JOY REID AFTER SERENA’S HISSY FIT
by Shaun Costello
Here is a letter I wrote to MSNBC’s Joy Reid, after the finals of the US Open last year:
First, let me say that I have been a fan of your journalism, and of your show, for quite a while. But I’m not certain that I can comfortably watch you any longer, and I will tell you why. Your show on Sunday, September 9th, I found to be deeply disturbing. The discussion with your panel of the incident that occurred during the playing of the women’s final at the US Open, I found to be biased beyond measure. I have been an active tennis player, and tennis fan since adolescence. I have watched the US Open since it was called the US Nationals, and was played at Forest Hills. Down through the years, I have been witness to some of the historic temper tantrums inflicted on the tennis community by the likes of Lew Hoad, Dennis Ralston, Sid Schwartz, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, and many others. Their behavior was an aberration to the sport.
I have also watched the extraordinary evolution of the Williams sisters, from gangly kids to exceptional players. Serena however, unlike Venus, developed into an arrogant and nasty player. She publicly stated that the only way she could lose was if she was not playing well. That another player might outplay her was impossible. Down through the years she has verbally and physically bullied other players, and berated officials.
This brings us to the unfortunate events that took place at this year’s women’s final. Naomi Tanaka had taken the first set 6-2. It was obvious that she had Serena’s number. So, Serena, unable to outplay her opponent, decided to have a hissy fit instead. When the chair gave her a warning for a coaching violation, she went ballistic. Between sets, and into the second set, she was relentlessly verbally abusive to the chair. When she smashed her racquet, destroying it, the one point penalty was automatic. This seemed to infuriate Serena to a new level of chair abuse. When the tournament chairman walked onto the court, in an attempt to restore order, Serena’s threats and accusations seemed even more intense. All the while, 20 year old Naomi Tanaka, on the verge of her first major title, stood on the base line crying, as the crowd booed the umpire, and eventually poor Naomi. When the umpire felt that Serena had gone way too far in her verbal abuse of him, she was given a one game penalty. I thought the call was unfortunate but fair, considering Serena’s behavior. So, once the fireworks settled down, Naomi Tanaka quite easily defeated Serena, who had somehow become a victim of societal unfairness, and had forever tainted Tanaka’s victory with her unwarranted and abusive behavior.
All players are coached from the stands. They rehearse signals with their coaches. This has been going on for decades. Serena’s coach admitted that he was signaling her. It’s a stupid rule, created by effete tennis nabobs. But it IS a rule, and if you blatantly break it you should be given a warning. Serena blatantly broke it. But Serena considers herself above the fray, and has said so many times.
On your September 9th show, I was stunned by the shared consensus between you and your panel, suggesting that Serena Williams was a victim of sexism and racism by the officials at the US Open. No mention was made of her abhorrent behavior. No mention was made of poor Naomi Tanaka, standing on the base line crying, as she was booed by the unruly crowd. Watching your show that day made me feel like I was watching a lynch mob, discussing tactics. Serena, unable to defeat Tanaka on the court, was triumphant in stealing Naomi’s moment, and regaining her rightful place, as the center of everyone’s attention.
Serena Williams is probably the greatest female tennis player of all time. But she is also a bit of a monster.