June 7th, 2013
I’ve now seen a whopping four sets of the 2013 French Open and during the first set of Williams-Errani, Chris Evert uncorked single dumbest thing I’ve ever heard a tennis commentator say. I’ve gone and exactly transcribed it so we’ll have this verbatim, for posterity.
At 4-0, 40-love in the fist set, with Serena dominating a totally under-manned Errani, Everet had the following exchange with Chris Fowler:
Evert: You know what, bring Nadal and Djokovic out right now. Because this is incredible women’s tennis.
Fowler: Let’s not get carried away.
Evert: No, I’m serious. I’m serious.
Fowler: You mean the match tomorrow? Or against her?
Evert: Bring them out to play Serena Williams. Because I don’t know anyone who could beat her the way she’s playing now.
Evert is lucky. Fowler, being a gentleman, quickly exited the exchange by saying, “Well, five-love” and moving to commercial break. If McEnroe had been on set, it would have been ugly.
(For people who don’t understand tennis, Serena almost certainly couldn’t get a set off of any man ranked in the top 200. It’s been tried before. Against a top 25 male player, she’d be lucky to get more than a couple points. It’s not just a question of power and spin, which the men possess enormous amounts more of, but speed and court coverage. This isn’t like saying Britney Griner could merely play in the NBA, it’s like saying she could take LeBron or Kobe in one-on-one.)
Agreed. Evert was OK until “I’m serious,” because it could have been just fun hyperbole. There are women tennis players who have beaten a healthy Serena Williams on top of her game, so the idea that she could match up against the best male players is just silly. Even if it wasn’t, drawing the inference while watching Williams’ whack-a-mole brand of tennis dominate doubles specialist Sara Errani is completely unwarranted.
Tracy Austin once said that even when she was the top-ranked woman’s player, she couldn’t have taken even a game off her brother, who I don’t believe was in the top 200 at the time.