Wimbledon 2012: 'Outta Compton' Williams suffers bad rap in SW19
In the light of the adoration lavished on Roger Federer yesterday by the Centre Court crowd, we might ask why Serena Williams receives such a contrastingly frosty reception. Another great champion who has been gracing these grounds for 14 years, she rarely draws anything more than polite applause.
Is it the four Wimbledon finals that Serena played against her sister Venus that count against her? Or is it the fact that, as a woman who came 'Straight Outta Compton' (as the classic rap album has it), she does not square with the expectations of the refined Wimbledon crowd? For all the appeal of grass-court tennis, the fans it attracts are not the most multi-cultural group.
Williams (below) -- who faces a semi-final match-up against Victoria Azarenka this afternoon -- deserves better. We may take her for granted, but hers is one of the most extraordinary stories in sport. The story of a mould-breaking talent who invented herself on the rutted, weed-strewn courts of a Los Angeles ghetto, and beat the world.
She has overcome extraordinary obstacles over the last 18 months that would have defeated most, including operations on her foot and a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Williams has fought her way back and is still determined to add to her tally of 13 grand slam titles -- five at Wimbledon.
"It's really kind of cool to have trophies in your house that are so meaningful, that you grow up dreaming about it but never really knowing you can make it," she said on Tuesday, after a straight-sets win over defending champion Petra Kvitova. Perhaps Williams has not been quite the player she was before the injury. Or perhaps the women's game has moved on. Either way, she has failed to add any major silverware to that cabinet in four attempts. Yet Wimbledon represents her best chance because the grass courts reward her peerless serve. If she can gets past Azarenka -- Williams has won their last five meetings -- she will face a newbie on the big stage: either Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, or Angelique Kerber of Germany.
Williams was erratic in the early stages of this tournament, allowing Jie Zheng to force her to 9-7 in the decider, and then battling through against Yaroslava Shvedova. But she came good against Kvitova. "You can't play a defending Wimbledon champion or grand slam champion and not elevate your game," she said afterwards. "I had to weed out the riff-raff and just get serious." If Williams gets serious today, you fear for Azarenka.
Will it be one of the unheralded pair who runs off with this title? That would continue the pattern of six different grand slam champions in the last six events, dating back to Kim Clijsters in Australia 18 months ago.
Mind you, so would a Williams triumph, given her own last grand slam title came at the 2010 French Open. You fancy she will weed out the riff-raff in her own style. (© Daily Telegraph, London)