© Ella Ling

Miami 2012 - Serena Williams 6

Serena should forget about being "super nice"


So Serena Williams isn’t just nice, she’s “super nice”; perhaps on her best days, she can even be super, super nice.

It is Serena’s contention – and her tongue wasn’t in her cheek when she said this – that she doesn’t get enough credit for being a super nice person. People are so busy discussing what she has screamed at officials – once threatening to jam a tennis ball down a lineswoman’s throat, once calling an umpire a hater and advising her to look out in the corridor – that they cannot see just how polite she is.

Rummage around in Serena’s handbag and you might even find a copy of Debrett’s. “They only focus on me yelling at umpires,” Serena said in Miami. “I’m actually an unbelievable professional competitor out there.”

Three thoughts pop into your head when you hear Serena proclaiming her virtues.

One, is it possible for anyone who strongly believes they are super nice, and wants credit for it, to be truly nice? Would Kim Clijsters, Caroline Wozniacki or Ana Ivanovic – they have never allowed their ambitions to get in the way of their manners – want recognition for every small smile or gesture, for clapping an opponent’s winner? If you’re “super nice”, or even just nice, you behave in a certain way because it comes naturally to you, or because you feel it’s right, but you don’t sit back and wait for the applause. Just as no one should want to be known for their generosity; your actions then cease to be generous, as you’re expecting something in return.

Two, it is impossible to seperate a player’s attitude towards her fellow competitors and her attitude towards the officials. Serena, and everyone else, should treat an opponent or an official in the same way. Would Serena ever try to intimidate an opponent by threatening to stuff a tennis ball into her mouth, or suggest that the girl on the other side of the net look the other way the next time they pass in the corridor? No, Serena wouldn’t have done that, because that wouldn’t have been “super nice”.

Three, surely it suits Serena just fine to be thought of as being not “super nice”? Serena is the most intimidating player on the women’s tour; there is something about the way she goes about her business which unnerves the opposition. When Serena really wants something, many players find it difficult to get in her way. There is an argument to say that at least one of her slam victories came through fear – because the rest of the locker-room were scared of her. Consider the 2007 Australian Open. Would she have won that tournament if she was known for being “super nice”? Maybe not.

Perhaps there have been other occasions when her bloody-minded, ballsy, uncompromising, nature have worked for her. Serena’s reputation has helped her in her career, not harmed her. It is too late in the day for Serena to transform her image, for the world to think that she has all the edge and bite of a cuddly toy. Serena isn’t “super nice” on a tennis court; she is super-competitive, super-ballsy, super-ambitious and there is nothing wrong with that. Carry on growling, carry on yelling, carry on winning, just forget about becoming Miss Nice of the Tennis Universe.

Even if you don’t play tennis, you could perhaps consider building a court in your garden as an investment (if you have the money and the space). A tennis court in your garden adds at least £75,000 to the value of a country house, and in some cases up to £100,000. And it should cost between £25,000 and £50,000 to build. That’s according to estate agents Jackson-Stops and Staff, who sent me the figures this morning.