Break Point


Forget the Williams sisters. By making "everything except tennis appear not to matter," Serena's decade-long dominion over the WTA has dismantled the "aristocracy of tennis fans," writes Brian Phillips: 

[T]hroughout Venus's and Serena's primes, from, say, 2003 to 2010, the tennis culture gradually embraced Venus — she was so gracious, and she jumped up and down so sweetly when she won Wimbledon — while Serena remained a flashpoint, criticized for her temper and her supposed lack of focus, as well as for a lot of other more sinisterly conceived stuff like "having no class" and "destroying sportsmanship in tennis," which, talk about not needing a decoder ring.

(And I'm sorry, white dudes who tweet at me during every single tennis tournament, but you can't accuse Serena of destroying the genteel good manners of tennis while simultaneously chuckling at every dumb commercial in which John McEnroe pops up to squawk "You cannot be serious" at Mayor McCheese or whatever. White dude par excellence Jimmy Connors called a U.S. Open official "an abortion," right there on TV…..) Venus took over tennis to the point that she seemed to be of tennis, to belong to its codes and traditions. Serena took over tennis while, in some sense, always remaining an outsider.

Arguing that the Williams' dominance made it impossible for fans to deny that they were "actually pretty OK" with their sport being "ludicrously white and upper-class," Phillips points to how the poem "The Change," by Tony Hoagland, embodied this phenomenon.

(Photo from Serena's 6-1, 6-3 victory over Ana Ivanovic on Thursday in the 2012 US Open quarterfinals. By Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)