Clever headline writers had a field day after the women's singles championship match at the U.S. Open yesterday. A match in which favorite Serena Williams lost to Aussie Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-3 amid a torrent of bad behavior. Some of the headlines splashed across front pages of papers (and computer monitors) read:
For the second time in two years Serena blew a fuse at the U.S. Open, launching a tirade at an official after being docked a point. Though she was the favorite going into the match, Serena won few friends or new fans over her lastest rant.
Those that watched the match know that Serena was cited by chair umpire Eva Asderaki for verbal abuse during the straight-set loss to Stosur. Those that missed this moment of tennis history can view the video below.
To recap, Serena faced a break point while serving in the first game of the second set of the final. She hit a blistering forehand and celebrated with a yell. Although Stosur barely got her racket on the ball, Asderaki ruled the scream came while she was reaching for the return and awarded the point to Stosur, putting the Aussie ahead 1-0 in that set.
CBS commentators, including John McEnroe who was known for having a few temper tantrums in his day, questioned whether the call was too harsh, and whether the point should have been re-played, instead of given to Stosur.
The ruling set Serena off on a series of harsh insults directed at Asderaki, a scene reminiscent of her tirade on the same court two years ago. During the earlier outburst, Serena was called for a foot fault on her second serve, and was docked a point that effectively gave the match to opponent Kim Clijsters.
Serena's 2009 profanity-laced outburst (I'm going to take this f**king ball and shove it down your f**king throat) led to her being whacked with an $82,500 fine. At the time, Grand Slam committee director Bill Babcock said that if Serena committed a "major offense" at a Grand Slam tournament in 2010 or 2011, her fine could be doubled and she would be barred from the following U.S. Open.
During a changeover in yesterday's game, Serena continued her verbal attack on Asderaki calling the chair ump a hater. She told the woman that if they were walking down the same hallway, Serena would tell her to walk the other way. Perhaps the most unsettling barb, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, Serena said “don't take the point off me for expressing myself, I'm an American."
This year's rant left the USTA with a tough decision and many feel Serena was let off too easy when the organization fined her just $2,000 today. Tournament referee Brian Earley issued the ruling and a statement by the U.S. Tennis Association said the fine "is consistent with similar offenses at Grand Slam events."
To put it in perspective, Serena earned 1.4 million at the U.S. Open this weekend: $900,000 for finishing as the runner-up, plus a $500,000 bonus for coming in first place in the U.S. Open Series standings. So essentially the paltry penalty is little more than a slap on the wrist. About the cost of a couple tickets and lunch at the U.S. Open.
Serena will not face further disciplinary action – which could have included suspension from a Grand Slam tournament – under the "probationary period" she was put under after her 2009 loss to Clijsters.
Asked at post-match presser whether she regretted any of her words, the 13-time Grand Slam champion showed no contrition for her behavior. She merely rolled her eyes and replied: "I don't even remember what I said. It was just so intense out there. ... I guess I'll see it on YouTube."
I was among those hoping that this year's U.S. Open would be a story about Serena's comeback from foot surgeries and blood clots in her lungs. Just six months ago she was in the hospital with life-threatening medical complications. But that comeback is now tainted by her widely seen meltdown. Although she was gracious in defeat and chatted with Stosur before the on-court presentations, even taking a moment to coyly check out her reflection in the trophy, her verbal abuse and attempts at intimidation crossed the line.
By playing the prima donna, Serena detracted from Stosur's well-played game and deserved victory. That should have been the story yesterday. Not the drama that put the headline writers to work.
Oh Serena. We love you so...but really - not cool.
dare to dream
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