Letter to the editor: Is Serena a centre court queen or a pantomime witch?

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Jacques Sellschop

The Serena Williams debate rages on. A fine of $17,000 US has been levied. Claims of discrimination against women have been made. Which version do you prefer?

Remember, we are not talking about the Olympic Games of 2000 years ago when people competed for a laurel wreath that one could not deposit in the bank.

The prize money for the winner of the US Open Ladies looks like a telephone number and the loser has to be satisfied with only half that amount.

Option 1: The Queen

“Excuse me, Mr Ramos, did I hear you say ‘coaching?’

“That’s right. I saw signals being communicated to you from your box. They could constitute strategic advice. In terms of the ‘no coaching’ rule I am giving you a warning.”

“Oh dear, how embarrassing. And inconvenient. Just when I’m being beaten silly by this teenager from Japan. But rules are rules.  I’m a mom, you see, so I know that.

“Besides, we’ve both been associated with the tour long enough to know how it works. You have a book of rules and an umpiring code to uphold. Without fear or  favour. Just like I do.

“So be a honey and ask the  tournament referee to send someone up to my box to tell the guys in there not to make any hand signals while I’m down here getting my ass kicked.

“If my coach is trying to brush a troublesome fly off the end of his nose with those gestures that he is making, maybe the tournament director can send up a can of insect spray.

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I respect your decision. After all, it’s just a warning. I’m a big girl now. In fact, I’m a mom.

“If this little girl on the other side of the net is playing better than I am today, she deserves to win. So let’s get on with the game.”

Option 2: The Pantomime Witch

“Are you SERIOUS? A WARNING? Me? Do you know who I am? I’m a mom!”

Mutters to herself: Okay. I guess my coach can see that I am getting beat by this teenager, so Plan B is out the window and we are now set up for Plan C.

“I must just check again how it works.  With one warning issued, the next violation gets me a point penalty.

“So, first, at each changeover I provoke Ramos. Loudly yell at him to apologise to me. Shout it several times. Like: ‘You owe me an apology’. Loudly. That will get the crowd sitting up. The buzz around the stadium should break her concentration.

“But if that teenage pretender to my crown keeps beating my ass and breaks my  serve again, I escalate things up to the next level –  I smash my racquet into a million pieces on to the court.

“It must be such a grand gesture of destruction and disgrace that the notion of abuse is not even debatable.

“That compels Ramos to penalise me with a point. Now I go ballistic, yelling that he can’t do that to me. I’m a mom!  Now I cause a major delay. Drag it out as long as possible. Yell a lot. That should break the teenager’s rhythm. Let everyone know I am a mom.

“More delay. Mobilise the crowd. Americans are very ‘mom’ conscious. It will get them rooting for me. Yell some more. Create drama. Watch her to see if she shows any signs of losing her focus.

“If she continues to turn her back on me and display that irritating oriental calm, engineer some more time delays. Resume playing only when the entire repertoire of disruptive tactics is exhausted.

“If she still continues to beat my ass around the court, go for the final throw of the dice.

Call Ramos a thief at the next changeover.

“It shouldn’t be too difficult to make him look like a racist who is robbing a poor mom of half the prize money she could be taking home to buy diapers for her baby.

“Repeat the thief accusation loudly for a billion TV viewers to hear until he can no longer ignore it.

That will provoke him to hit me with a whole game forfeit for abusing the umpire. (Damn convenient, that rule about not terrorising the umpire).

“How the crowd will love that penalty. I’ll be able to stage a major breakdown in that pesky teenager’s rhythm by calling for the referee and the tournament director.

“Demand that they come on to the court and listen to my demands. Look menacing. Shake my racquet in their faces. Yell a lot.

“I could even play the mom card again with a few tears thrown in. If that doesn’t knock Miss Lotus Blossom off her winning streak of insane shots, I could always claim that I was cheated out of the match. Yes, CHEATED!

“Cheated by a man who has never experienced the pain of giving birth. Cheated by a prejudiced umpire who can’t understand the gesticulations some coaches make when their player is losing.

“Can’t recognise that they are just making an attempt to wipe away the demons of hallucination that shock and imminent defeat throw up in front of their faces during a match.

“I could never cheat. I mean, after all, I am a mom. Where is the RESPECT? What was Ramos thinking!

“Actually, now that I come to think of it, Plan C is really quite brilliant. At the end of the match I can always smile that benign smile of a nun who has sacrificed all her gifts for the sake of the underprivileged and is expecting to be canonised.

“I can play the humility card. Reinforced by the mom card, of course. I can smother her in sweaty hugs. I can look demure and mommish.

“I can give my Little Bo Peep twirl and discreetly imply my thanks to the crowd for booing that uppity little teenager. Thank them for applauding me for responding so graciously after being robbed of my tiara in front of 35,000 fans.

“I will be able to live for the rest of my life on the impression that it was all a ghastly mistake by an umpire whose knowledge of sign language was so hideously limited and who didn’t know how to treat royalty, let alone moms!

“It’s a win-win for me, even if that truckload of money is going off to Japan instead of into my bank account.”


Queen or witch, the enduring image left in the minds of discerning observers had as much charm as that of a soiled diaper abandoned on the stadium court.

*Jacques Sellschop is a world-renowned South Coast-based photographer and passionate tennis supporter.

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