Serena Williams earned high marks for her performance in the press conference following her stunning three-set loss to Virginie Razzano on Tuesday. Christopher Clarey of the New York Times called it "dignified." Others wrote that it was classy. When compared to the low bar that Serena set in her early days, maybe it was. Compared to anything else,
First, the positives. As Clarey says, Serena was expansive with her answers. She didn't pull a John Tortorella and issue one-word responses. Nor did she make excuses for her loss. When asked whether she suffered an injury during the match, Serena responded, "No, no, no, I didn't feel anything abnormal. I was 100% healthy."
She also spoke with perspective. "I've been through so much in my life," she said," "and, yeah, I'm not happy, by no means. I just always think things can be worse."
Yet Serena barely acknowledged Razzano and gave her no credit for the win. In theory, this makes perfect sense. When the No. 111 player in the world defeats a 13-time Grand Slam champion, it's invariably because the latter lost the match rather than the former winning it. Dominating athletes like Serena believe they shouldn't be beat, so when they are, they blame, not credit.
Thus, when Serena says "I" 33 times at the beginning of the press conference and never utters the words "Virginie," "Razzano" or "she," that's no surprise. Roger Federer does the same thing, even though he's media savvy enough to throw in a perfunctory compliment. Serena refused to do that much, even when the press teed up a question for her. A reporter asked her to talk about the tragic story of Razzano's fiancee and coach, who died eight days before last year's French Open. It was an easy opportunity to show some empathy, say something kind and move on.
"Did you know her story and what do you think of what she did today?" the reporter asked.
SERENA WILLIAMS: (Smiling.) That's a bit of an intricate question. I ‑‑ yeah, I know of her story and her husband. We all have stories. I mean, I almost died and Venus is struggling herself. So, you know, it's life. You know, it just depends on how you deal with it. She obviously is dealing with it really well.
Ice cold, Serena. She takes a question about suffering and flips it around to talk about her own struggles. No credit to Razzano, no acknowledgement, no warmth. Serena knows what it's like to lose a loved one too early -- her half-sister was murdered in 2003.
She doesn't need to show sympathy, nor does she need to give credit. But when she doesn't, any talk about Serena Williams' growth is as insincere as her words.