I watched Serena Williams nearly meltdown against the world's number 104 Anna-Lena Friedsam in a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win at the French Open. It’s the hallmark of a true champion to play poorly and still survive, and Serena is an all-time great player who will get stronger as the tournament goes on. I wouldn't bet against her to win her 20th Slam.
I hope she improves for selfish reasons too because I don't think I could stand listening to the commentators make one more excuse for Serena's poor play or boorish behavior. I'd rather not name names here because this issue is systemic. Somehow it seems like the whole production gang at ESPN2 feels obligated to defend Americans, but it's counterproductive like sitting next to the world's most biased parents at a junior tournament. Of course … this is no level 1B tournament, it's the French Open!
There is a college drinking game in which partygoers have to take a drink every time a selected word of phrase is heard. If drinkers had chosen hearing something about Serena's "Mojo" or that "Only Serena can beat Serena," they would be drunk before the middle of the first set. Serena acted childish the entire match, and Friedsam played the match of her life, yet the conversation was so one-sided in defense of Serena, it was silly and distracting. Professional tennis deserves objective and professional journalism in Grand Slam broadcasts.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 state high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.