6/23/2010 11:19 PM ET By Greg Couch
WIMBLEDON, England -- This is an insult. Serena Williams was even practicing her curtsy in preparation for playing tennis in front of the Queen, who will attend Wimbledon Thursday for the first time in 33 years.
It's a special moment for a special tournament, but the most special women's player going Thursday, Williams, was pushed out to Court 2. The Queen will be watching at Centre Court.
This is just wrong. And I can't stand it when players grumble about the indignity of being put out on far away courts, as if they deserve more. But this time, with the Queen coming in, court placement matters. And Serena Williams deserves the honor.
To move the best player in the world and defending champion who, with her sister Venus, has dominated Wimbledon for a decade, is not an accident. It is a message, but I don't know, and am even a little afraid of, what that message is.
"I'm definitely going to work on it a little more," Williams said about her curtsy after her first-round match. "I'm trying to tone down my wrist action.
"But my curtsy is really fun. It's something that she'll definitely never forget, if I ever even get a chance to meet her. We really don't do that so much in the United States, so I'm really working hard on it.''
Share How embarrassing for Williams that she would show such giddiness for the Queen, only to be sent away where she can't be seen.
Instead, Andy Murray, the only player left in the draw from Great Britain, will be first on Centre Court. He should be. In the third match there, Rafael Nadal, the No. 1 men's player will be there. Fine again. And in the middle match? Caroline Wozniacki.
Now, I know how this is going to look to many Williams fans, so I'm just going to say it bluntly: A black woman on an outer court while a pretty, white blonde woman who has never won anything major, plays for the Queen.
That is the last kind of thought tennis needs. And I even doubt that that's what this is about.
I would guess the biggest factor is the image of Williams at the U.S. Open last year, threatening and bullying a line judge, with f-bombs on worldwide TV, to shove a ball down her throat.
Not a scene to place in front of the Queen. It was a one-time thing for Williams, but it's also stuck in a lot of minds.
Understand that there is still plenty of snootiness here. And while the club wouldn't care for that word, it would probably freely acknowledge to believing in everything Americans would consider the definition of it.
People don't like to hear the truth about this, but the problem is that feelings about race and the Williams sisters and tennis are touchy. They will never be resolved. A snooty, old-fashioned club starts with one foot in the middle of a stereotype.
That's not to say that Williams should play on Centre Court to keep away calls of racism. She should be there because she has earned it.
The other stuff becomes a side issue, an anger and a suspicion that will grow, whether justified.
The All England Club decides who plays where, and last year it became clear that rights-paying TV network BBC has a huge hand in it. That's when Gisela Dulko and Maria Kirilenko were placed on Centre Court without any credentials beyond their looks. A BBC official admitted that yes, looks do factor into it.
If they were after looks and TV ratings, though, then they would have put Maria Sharapova, another former Wimbledon champ, on Centre Court.
Venus and Roger Federer, who have won far more Wimbledon titles than anyone else here, are off Thursday.
Meanwhile, Serena, who has not grumbled about her court placement, eats the words she said the other day, promising to dress conservatively for the Queen, and to make sure she curtsies nicely.
"I want it to be more natural," she said. "Right now, it feels really forced. Seems like I've never done a curtsy before, which may be true. But I'm looking forward to nailing it.''