Hoffman's Houston
Match point

Ken Hoffman aces the question of an average Joe winning a point against Serena Williams

Hoffman aces the question of winning a point against Serena Williams

Houston, Ken Hoffman, Serena Williams, July 2017
Could you win a point against Serena Williams? Serena Williams/Facebook

The headline: “Twitter Explodes At 1 In 8 Men Saying They Could Win A Point Off Serena Williams.”

Comments almost unanimously said no way in the world could a non-professional tennis player win a single point off Serena. These men must be delusional, sexist, in need of psychiatric help, and just plain stupid.

Here’s the question that was presented to 100 men by the online survey company YouGov: “Do you think if you were playing your very best tennis, you could win a point off Serena Williams?”

The poll’s result from YouGov: “One in eight men (12 percent) say they could win a point in a game of tennis against 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams.”

Twitter lost its mind. Even Chrissy Teigen offered

“We need to see this, please please. I would like to cry of laughter.”

Everybody, slow down. This entire controversy du jour is flawed. For example, where did YouGov find these 100 men? If they walked up to 100 schlubs standing in line at McDonald’s, then sure, I doubt if 12 of them could win a point off Serena. I don’t think they could win a point off a 14-year-old boy or girl on their middle school tennis team. Most people, and for the purpose of this, let’s consider men as people, don’t play tennis. As in zero times in their life.

Who *are these people?
There are about 325 million people in the U.S. of which, let’s say, 155 million are male. According to the Tennis Industry Association, there are 9.9 million “core” tennis players in America, including men, women, boys and girls. A core player is someone who plays tennis at least 10 times a year. That’s core? If so, that’s trouble for the sport.

A good guess, there are about 2 million adult male, so-called core players. The number of men who play regularly, who really get after it once or twice a week, would be lower. Starting off, a random poll of 100 men would be unlikely to find one person who plays tennis regularly. A poll that finds 12 percent of men claiming they could win a point off Serena indeed is dubious.

Singling out Serena
Another thing, why did the poll ask about Serena Williams? Poor Serena got caught up in another silly kerfuffle a few years ago when John McEnroe said Serena wouldn’t crack the Top 700 in the men’s rankings.

Serena is the GOAT, no question, the greatest female tennis player of all time. But she is not the best now and hasn’t been the best for several years. For YouGov to include Serena in its question was very disrespectful to today’s top female players, like Naomi Osaka, Karolina Pliskova, Sofia Kenin, and Simona Halep, who defeated Serena in the last four grand slam tournaments. Not saying Serena isn’t still great, just saying she’s not the best in 2019.

I can understand Twitter’s howling at the 12 percent of men who say they could win a point off Serena … if the poll included the first 100 men getting off the bus on Main Street. But if the pollster went to a tennis club and asked 100 regular players if they thought could win a point off Serena, I think the actual retail price would be … at least 50 percent.

We’re not talking beating Serena, or pushing Serena to a third set or worrying Serena in the slightest. But one measly point over 12 games? Very doable, at least imaginable, even against Serena Williams. Serena could double fault. She could miss a drop shot or smack a forehand into the net. The guy could get lucky and hit a backhand on the baseline, mis-hit an overhead that touches the net cord and trickles over for a winner. There are thousands of variables and weird things that happen in a tennis match.

Ken vs. Chris Evert, John McEnroe, and Bjorn Berg
Over my illustrious journalism career (this long journey to the middle and trending downward) I have weaseled my way onto a tennis court with some tennis legends. I am an okay player, two-time champion of the Westheimer Tennis Club (you can look it up) on Crossview, near Sam’s Club, down the street from McDonald’s.

One time, during an exhibition doubles match at River Oaks Tennis Club, my partner was Mardy Fish, I returned John McEnroe’s serve for a clean winner. Of course, I paid for this indiscretion the rest of the match. McEnroe clearly does not have a sense of humor on a tennis court.

I once aced Chris Evert during a Chuck Norris Kick Drugs Out of America charity event. I paid for that one, too. She later hit me with a screamer at the net. At least she laughed when I crumbled in pain.

And one of the best experiences of my life — I played my tennis hero Bjorn Borg on the center court clay of River Oaks. He was retired but playing regularly on the legends tour. Until Rafael Nadal came along, Borg was the greatest clay court player ever.

The deal was, I asked him to play legit, try to win every point, and let’s see what happens. I swear, I was so nervous and awed to see him on the other side of the net, my hands were shaking. He was wearing a baseball hat with a ponytail sticking out the back. His fingers were taped and everything. He looked like Bjorn Borg on TV. My friend Reg “Third Degree” Burns kept score and took a photo of the match.

Borg served first. I returned the ball down the line, As McEnroe would say, chalk flew up, it was clearly in. Borg was trailing me, 0-15.

I didn’t win another point. But let the record show, 100 percent of the men players that day won a point off Bjorn Borg.