Serena Handling Crushing Defeat With Grace | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Serena Handling Crushing Defeat With Grace

Posted: Sep 15, 2015 at 12:28 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

In sports, defeat is synonymous with struggle and pain. But current World number one Serena Williams is having none of that. She has risen serenely; you might say above the mess. In Friday’s press conference following her loss in the U.S. Open semifinals, the one that ended her hopes for a tennis Grand Slam, Williams drew a line around what was too complicated to discuss and she put it off limits. Good for her.

Serena and Venus


“I don’t want to talk about how disappointing it is for me,” she said after being asked how disappointing it was for her. She dismissed the question with a quick wave of her hand. Small as it was, the gesture halted any further efforts to probe a deeply personal raw spot.

Athletes are our idealized selves in so many ways, and we tend to get our egos mixed up with them. We feel exhilarated by their victories, deflated by their losses. I was on assignment in New York when Williams suffered her defeat in Flushing Meadows, and everyone around me, it seemed, was talking about it.

The modern-dance choreographer Twyla Tharp, whom I interviewed on Saturday, was talking about it.

A guy I passed in Central Park was exclaiming about the match into his headset. “Oh God, it was just terrible,” he said, as if he’d witnessed some grisly car accident. “She double-faulted and everything.”

She left others to grope around for reasons why the seemingly inevitable was stopped, how the invincible Williams stumbled on the way to scooping up the fourth and final of her major singles titles this year, a rare streak that would have completed a Grand Slam. From her, there would be no bitterness, no tears, no chaotic emotions.

“If you have any other questions, I’m open for that,” Williams said, after shutting down the one about disappointment.

“I’ve learned a lot that I’m able to do anything,” she said back in July after her Wimbledon win. Though she surely didn’t wish it, here’s one more thing she proved she is able to do: Williams handled an upset with grace.