Serena Williams was asked to comment on Harry and Meghan’s plans – and her response was a grand slam.
Going up against junior Grand Slam champion Anastasia Potapova, Williams won the first seven games with ease, striking 24 winners over the tennis match’s 58 minutes (against 16 errors). No wonder, then, that she came out on top, 6-0, 6-3, making this her 350th match win at a major.
“It’s good to be back,” Williams said on court of the Australian Open. “I love playing here, I love playing in Melbourne. It’s one of my favorite cities so I’m still playing.”
It was a magnificent match, there’s no doubt about it. Annoyingly, though, nobody wanted to talk to Williams about her skills on the tennis court. Instead, the first question at the post-match presser was focused on something that a) had nothing to do with Williams, and b) nothing to do with tennis.
So what was so important? Perhaps the bush fires, which continue to plague Australia and negatively impact the quality of the country’s air? Don’t be silly: of course it wasn’t (although Williams expressed concern over the havoc the fires have wreaked upon the environment in Australia, describing the situation as “a disaster“). All anyone wanted to talk about was Meghan and Harry’s decision to step back from the royal family – and, more importantly, Williams’ hot take on the matter. You know, because she and Meghan are such “good friends” and all.
“Your good friend Meghan Markle, who attended your last two grand slams, and Harry, have taken a move, a stance that many people think is extraordinary and historic,” asked the journalist in question, practically salivating at the thought of another spin on royal headlines.
“What are your feelings about that? Have you spoken to her?”
Williams, however, wasn’t about to be drawn into a long conversation about her pal – nor was she about to let anyone ignore one of the greatest matches of her career. Because, to paraphrase Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Serena in the corner.
Politely acknowledging the question, Williams responded: “Yeah, I have absolutely no comments on anything to do with that.”
And then, slyly dragging the journalist for derailing the interview in the first place, the tennis player adopted an overly encouraging (and beautifully condescending) tone.
“Good try,” she said. “You tried! You did good.”
We get it. Of course we get it. Meghan and Harry’s decision to step back from the royal family and drop their HRH titles is big news but it’s not the only news. And, when you’re speaking to the first athlete to make Forbes’ Richest Self-Made Women list (Williams has an estimated fortune of $225 million), it really isn’t OK to brush aside all her hard work and achievements in favour of a quick 30-second soundbite.
Yes, it makes headlines. Yes, it’s good for clicks. And yes, it’s always lovely when celebrities shower their equally famous friends with praise and support. But there is a time and a place for such conversations – and that time and place is never a post-match interview.
Williams, who won her first WTA title in three years in the run-up to the opening Grand Slam of the year, is set to play Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek next.
Fingers crossed that journalists keep their questions pertinent throughout the remainder of this year’s Australian Open. After all, this is Williams – aka the greatest tennis player of all time. Let’s show her and her sporting career some respect, and offer her the chance to talk about that which she’s spent her entire life working towards, yeah?