Tag:Richard Williams
Posted on: March 25, 2008 2:25 pm

Indian Wells, War and Racism

Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic claimed the WTA and ATP titles at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California on Sunday. Both of them were born in Belgrade, Serbia, in 1987.

Djokovic is the best tennis player in the world today. He won the Australian Open and the first masters series of the season. Enough said

Ivanovic was the No.1 seed in the Coachella Valley – that’s how people who live there like to call Palm Springs where the Indian Wells Tennis Garden is located. She lost in the Australian Open final earlier this year. She is not the best on the women’s side, but she is very close to the top.

Djokovic and Ivanovic were eleven when NATO forces launched a three-month long offensive against their city, destroying downtown buildings, airports and bridges. My Serbian friends still refer to it as the “NATO Aggression.”

NATO forces, at the time, were led by American general Wesley Clark. The same Clark, who may, I am told, become Hillary Clinton’s running mate as vice president, should she win the democratic primaries. Which proves she is not lying after all when she says she is ready to run the USA. She too knows people who can bomb the crap out civilians thousand of miles from Washington.

Even though they grew up through the hardship of war, Djokovic and Ivanovic have become great athletes and seemingly great young people too. The tennis fans around the world are always keen on watching them play, or imitating fellow tennis players (Djokovic’s second job on tour).

They both have left their country. She now resides in Basel, Switzerland, Roger Federer’s hometown. His primary residence is now Monte-Carlo, Monaco, with the rich and famous. And yet, both of them proudly defend the colors of their shrinking country and never complain publicly about the war. They talk about it, when asked (who hasn’t heard Ivanovic’s recall of tennis matches played in a pool?), but I have never heard any of them bring it up on their own.

In the meantime, still in Indian Wells, WTA head Larry Scott said that he strongly disagrees with comments made by Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus, regarding racism on the women's tour.

"Well, I'm black and I'm prejudiced, very prejudiced. People are prejudiced in tennis. I don't think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be."

This is what Mr. Williams told the Deccan Herald, an Indian daily newspaper, while his daughters were playing in Bangalore, India.

Did Mr. Williams go too far? Is he wrong? No one can deny that racism is still vibrant in today’s American society. Otherwise, why would presidential candidate Barack Obama give a lengthy, very lengthy, speech about race? He is definitely a formidable orator, but the “race speech” he delivered on March 18, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was seriously long and I daresay, completely useless if you’re not a pundit on a 24-hour news channel.

I don’t know for a fact whether people are prejudiced in tennis, but I don’t see why the pro tennis tours would be little islands off the real world where everything is rosy and where everybody goes along. That doesn’t make racism acceptable, but Mr. Williams’s words understandable.

The Williams sisters haven't played at Indian Wells since 2001. They were booed after Venus pulled out of a semifinal match against her sister, citing knee tendinitis. Serena went on to win the title, but was booed during and after the championship match.

Now that I have managed to talk about war, Clinton, Obama and racism in an otherwise meaningless blog dedicated to tennis, please forgive one last trick: Matt Drudge is a genius and his site, “Drudge Report,” rules. I guess that if I praise him and his work over and over again, he will, one day, link to this page from his site, which should significantly increase viewership.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com