Written by Anietie Ukpe
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Tags: Tennis

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

There is good news on the tennis front. The hapless lineswoman who got threatened by Serena Williams can now walk the streets of this sinful world without fear or hindrance. She has been adequately assured (with public apologies) by the tennis champion that she never meant to shove a tennis ball down her throat - even though she may have said so in anger during her semi-final match against come-back mom, Kim Clisjters, in the US Tennis Open.

As a matter-of-fact, Serena said in a press conference ten minutes after the incident, which cost her the match, that she did not know why the lineswoman should have felt threatened in the first place because, by her (Serena's) admission, she had never been in a fight before. In other words even if she actually intended to force the tennis ball down someone's throat she may not have the required "skill" to do it.

Since this "no fight" experience did not assuage the lineswoman's fears, other reasons were needed, particularly since Serena is so much bigger and more muscular than the lineswoman. The primary thing is that Serena seems to have jettisoned the idea of shoving a tennis ball down the lady's throat. This is because she is minded to become a role model for her generation - already a tough rebranding proposition because she is known for her tennis prowess, not for her moral standards. The other line is that she is not minded to disappoint her fans like yours truly.

What all these means is that if the lineswoman were to see Serena on a lonely beach she would not need to take to her heels or call the police. But what if Serena were to be carrying a tennis ball in her hands and heading in her direction after a tournament?

At the fear of sounding like a pessimist, I suggest to the woman (and other linesmen and women) to add the practice of eating tennis balls to her official routine of watching tennis lines. A little tennis bite a day might condition her system to digesting a whole tennis ball… someday. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. She may also try how she could expand her mouth muscles in case some tennis player (not necessarily Serena) were to try to shove a tennis ball down her throat… one day. Call it learning to cope with a professional hazard!

If she were an African, I would not have paid a mind to it. We Africans are used to swallowing our foods (breakfast, lunch and dinner). But she is Asian and may never have had to swallow anything other than tablets and capsules all her tennis-watching life. The thought of being forced to swallow a tennis ball (at the first attempt of swallowing anything at all) therefore sounded like a death threat.

She would not have been so horrified, I am sure; if Serena had suggested that she would cook the tennis ball in a lizard stew, add spinach and frogs, and serve her the food at after the tournament. She would, perhaps, have looked forward to the treat and would not have been too eager to report it to the chair umpire.

Of course not continuing the game to its logical conclusion reminded me of the Duke who lost a chess match through the effluxion of time. After he analyzed his opponents move and its consequences, he discovered that a certain checkmate was awaiting him in the sixteenth move no matter what he played. He pushed his chair back, reached for his hat and walking stick and strolled outside. The tournament organizers and the player thought he was coming back, but the gentleman headed home and never returned.

Sister Serena took a more noble approach than simply picking her bag and taking a walk. She went out in a huff of smoke and sawdust - a truly spunky woman. Her service was always a sore point in the game and she was already down 15-30. Her service was what was used to hang her in the first set and she broke her racket in frustration. This earned her a code violation. And here she was again with her service becoming "anemic." Hmmm… better to lash out at someone than break another racket!

Some people would call it transferred aggression … but I prefer to sing Bob Marleys tune, "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day…" She turned to the woman and the rest is history. The popular opinion is that it was not foot-fault at all! And for making this egregious error, the hapless lineswoman paid for it grievously. If she had made the error when Serena was winning or humiliating players of lesser quality 6-0, 6-2, Serena would have taken it in her stride. But as your grandmother, perhaps, told you, you do not add salt to your neighbor's open wound. The lineswoman violated this code and gave my heroine the opportunity to turn what we thought was going to be a "Serena slam" into a "Serena sham."

Ten minutes after the outburst laden with expletives, Serena calmly addressed a press conference and stated that she meant no harm. Added to this she had not foot-faulted all year and suddenly they were pinning foot-faults on her. The kind of opinion my grandfather had when he fainted and the folks around there thought he was dead. The angry old soldier woke up furious as hell, "I had not died in all the battlefields I fought, and suddenly you people would assume that I am dead." Those were his last words.

Another "stream of tennis consciousness" has it that you do not call foot-fault at such a critical moment - with a player under such intense pressure. In other words, you let the player keep her feet where ever she or he pleases, in the interest of good neighborliness.

Now you see why I like basket ball? Your pressure has nothing to do with the rules. More so, basket ball teaches you how to toss a banana peel from the comfort of a bus or your car into the trash can by the roadside and not hit the policeman on patrol on the road. Tennis, regrettably, has no such ennobling attribute and that is why its player hit the ball with all their might and curse with all their heart. Already I have composed a poem to commemorate this event and to keep my favorite female tennis player from trouble in future. I urge her to commit it to memory and wish it away:

Serena Williams, in tennis down
Gave her racket forty zaps
When she saw what she had done
She gave the umpire fifty yaps

I have no doubt that Serena will come out of this stronger and a better person. Her contributions to tennis are legendary and the stuff of the id. Together with her sister, Venus, they have revolutionized the women's game. Before their advent, WTA tennis used to look like a slow-motion replay of the ATP games. She should not compromise this legacy. Next time she feels like a cursing she should shove the tennis ball into her mouth and count up to ten. If that therapy fails, she should close her eyes and repeat the poem above.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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