…after first-round win at Australian Open wearing ‘Serena-tard’
Serena Williams won her first competitive match since the US Open final – that infamous night in New York when she suffered three code violations – and then made it clear that any discussion of the biggest tennis story of 2018 was completely off the table.
In the immediate aftermath of Williams’s extraordinary loss to Naomi Osaka, she insisted that she saw her row with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in gender terms. “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff,” she said. “For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark.”
Coming less than a year after the launch of the Me Too movement, Williams’s comments sparked a huge, ongoing debate about sexism in tennis. But she has declined to return to the issue in any depth, and when she was asked about her position on coaching from the sidelines – the offence that sparked her initial code violation – she replied curtly. “I, like, literally have no comment.”
Having overcome Germany’s Tatiana Maria by a 6-0, 6-2 scoreline in just 49 minutes, Williams was keener to talk about her latest radical costume: a green jumpsuit that she referred to as a “Serena-tard”.
“I wanted to be fit,” said Williams. “I came back. Nike always wants to make an incredibly strong, powerful statement for moms that are trying to get back and get fit. That was basically it for me.”
Meanwhile the former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka was emotional after losing her first-round match to another German – Laura Siegemund – by a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 scoreline.
“I’ve been through a lot of things in my life and sometimes I wonder why I go through them,” said Azarenka in a tearful press conference, “but I think they’re going to make me stronger. I want to believe that and I’m going to work hard for it.
“Sometimes I just need a little time and patience and a little support. I don’t think, sitting here today, that I failed. But I’m struggling. Failing is when you give up and you don’t try again.”
Both world No. 1s progressed, Novak Djokovic in comfortable style against qualifier Mitchell Krueger, while Simona Halep had to fight back from dropping the first set against Kaia Kanepi – the powerful Estonian who beat her in the first round of last year’s US Open.
But Nick Kyrgios was an early faller, succumbing in straight sets to the lethal serving of Milos Raonic.