Jaco van der Merwe
Head of Motoring
3 minute read
17 Sep 2015
2:00 pm

Battling to bond with a screaming legend

Jaco van der Merwe

My household is no different to any other when it comes to the battle for the TV remote control.

But because of my four-year-old daughter’s preference for all things pink and perky, the battlefield is woefully lopsided. Somehow, Jean de Villiers always seems to come off second best in a head-to-head with Barbie, Roger Federer can’t return Dora the Explorer‘s pearls of wisdom and the Proteas don’t even rock up for the toss when the Pink Panther is on a mission.

But since the birth of her younger sibling, every now and again our constant emphasis on sharing does pay off as the big sister happily hands over the remote – when it suits her – and tells her old man: ”You can watch the rugby now”.

Her gestures are so heartwarming that I almost feel disappointed when there isn’t a rugby match showing at that particular moment. Never keen to pass up on a prime father-and-daughter bonding session as she snuggles in under my arm to watch “the rugby” with me, I normally find myself desperately looking for another sport we can enjoy together.

Last week we stumbled across the US Open, where Serena Williams was chasing Grand Slam history. Nice, I thought, I am quite keen on taking my little angel for tennis lessons soon and what better advertisement for the sport with one of the greatest ever players on show.

But somehow it didn’t turn into the sales pitch I had secretly hoped for. When Serena won a point, she would clench her fists, bend over and scream for what seemed like an eternity. When she lost a point, her shoulders would drop and she’d walk back to the baseline at a snail’s pace feeling all sorry for herself.

I remember how her frantic from-euphoria-to-tragedy moments also irked me at Wimbledon, dragging her feet to get back to the baseline like a tortoise, only to pin her ears back to run down a drop shot like a hare seconds later.

At one stage during her shock semifinal loss in New York, Roberto Vinci’s dazed expression said it all when her much-fancied opponent celebrated a point with what seemed to be a minute-long scream. Vinci’s face was a mixture of disgust and confusion, almost as if to say: are we ever going to resume?

It took me back a long time to the day Steffi Graf played Martina Hingis in the French Open final in 1999. ”Miss Swiss” lived up to her reputation by throwing her toys out the cot at every opportunity as she gave the chair umpire a torrid time at Roland Garros.

During one of these extended meaningless arguments with the official, Steffi marched to the net and her request was an all-time classic: ”Are we going to play some tennis here?”

There is no denying Serena’s credentials as a player as her record speaks for itself. But I’m sorry, she is not the role model I had envisaged for my little one. I would rather have liked to expose her to the grace and humility – and urgency – of Steffi, than the rollercoaster of exuberant celebrations and dramatic mourning provided by Serena.

As long as she’s ruling the roost, I’d much rather bond with my little princess watching Barbie.