Sunday, September 13, 2009

Talk About Serena Open Thread

Serena Williams of the US talks to  US Open head referee Brian Earley after being penalized in her match against Kim Clijsters from Belgium during their Women's Semi-Final US Open match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center September 12, 2009 in  New York.

At MadProfessah's, bambam's, and Don Scarlett's request.

I took for granted everybody had talked about this the night it happened.

My bad.

Here are a few of my remarks from that Open Thread.

But if you want to fight to defend your title, you must must must contain yourself. You CANNOT threaten to shove a fucking tennis ball down a player's throat.

There are no excuses for such threats on a tennis court.

I won't excuse it. Not for Lleyton Hewitt. Not for Serena Williams.


I can't and I won't excuse Serena's behavior.

But she snapped and it wasn't pretty.

That said, the men get away with murder. Roddick, my other fave, berates umpires and linespeople on the regular (though not lately) and I don't excuse him either. But he gets away with it.

Because he's a man?

Serena doesn't need to be banned from anything. She took her penalty and her press conference performance was positive and strong, whether she was "acting" or not.

If you can sift through the cacophony of banter, there are quite a few comments about the situation from several posters.

Serena Williams was fined $10,000. In her statement, she said:

“Last night, everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don’t agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly.

“I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human and I look forward to continuing the journey, both professionally and personally, with you all as I move forward and grow from this experience.”

Serena's amended statement:

I want to amend my press statement of yesterday, and want to make it clear as possible - I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lines woman, the USTA, and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst. I'm a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I'm wrong.

I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act -- win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner.

I like to lead by example. We all learn from experiences both good and bad, I will learn and grow from this, and be a better person as a result.

Mary Carillo thinks the fine is a joke. Not sure what she thinks would be more appropriate. Thinks Serena (and therefore Venus) should be defaulted from the doubles final tomorrow and suspended from the sport.

John McEnroe thinks she should be suspended but her suspension should be that she be forced to play the smaller events in the fall that she probably wasn't going to play anyway because that would be good for the sport.

Yup. I heard it with my own ears. That's what he said.

We have officially entered the Twilight Zone.

Have at it.


bambam said...

I think Serena always gets screwed with bad calls. For some reason it happens to her more than others. She clearly didn't foot fault, but did lose it completely. So, I think the default was justified.

Mary Carillo ticks me off, though. She does not like the Williams sisters and is always sparse with her praise of them. She criticizes them whenever she has the opportunity.

Johnny Mac should have ABSOLUTELY no opinion on this situation. I heard him talk about how her outburst was worse than his. You cannot be serious! His commentary has become increasingly annoying this past year.

I keep thinking about what Roddick said a couple days ago. The WS sisters are completely unappreciated. I wonder if some of this under-appreciation is bothering Serena.

So, that's my two cents.

cms said...

McEnroe was joking. He was pretty much staying out of the discussion because he knows he doesn't have a leg to stand on.

Carillo, on the other hand, proves herself to again be beyond absurd, and self-righteous to boot. She gave herself away early by saying something to the effect of "It's the worst I've seen. Even worse than the guys, I think."

The standard is different for women, apparently. They guys (looking at you, Roddick) can be horrendous to umpires/linespeople, but the women cannot.

There is no way that foot fault should have been called at that moment. It shouldn't have, and frankly, I don't think that linesperson should work in the business again. Serena's actions, however, were completely out of bounds. And she lost the semifinals for the U.S. Open because of those actions -- that's enough accountability.

Really, Mary, you have never seen players scream at refs/umpires in baseball or football without being suspended? Really?

I'm glad Serena released a statement and I hope everyone moves on.

Craig Hickman said...

I didn't sense any joking in McEnroe's remark this afternoon before the first men's quarterfinal.

None at all.

Was there an introduction I missed?

cms said...

Regarding making her play the rest of the season as a punishment? Yeah, that was a joke.

Mad Professah said...

I don't understand why no-one is focussed on the bad line call.

If a call had been called out and it was actually in at 15-30 and there had been a challenge system in place, all Serena would have had to do was go to the video replay challenge system was in place Serena would have had a FIRST serve at 15-30.

Even if SHE did go off the line judge at that point I disagree with Darren Cahill that if the score had been 2-all in the first set that behavior by Serena would have led to game set and match.


Helen W said...

What seems to be lost in all this was that Serena was also wronged, by a completely bogus (and that's being kind) call by a linesperson. Is anyone talking about what should happen to the linesperson because of that? What about the umpire -- do umpires have any discretion in these matters?

Without that wrong, none of this would have happened.

How much collective crap do people have to take before they lose it? Does anyone else wonder if that horrendous call against her by Mariana Alves in the Capriati match rose up again in her psyche?

PeytonAllen said...


In yesterday's open thread a lot was said, and a lot was said about the line call.

It was awful. She shouldn't work again, period.

That said, Serena took it up a couple notches. Mac shouldn't comment. I like what Jimmy Connors had to say on the Tennis Channel's coverage. Essentially saying as a player in the past he's done stuff like that, then you walk off and say, "did I just really do that? Did I just lose it like that?"

I think the fine is laughable, in the sense that she'll get that back tomorrow win or lose. I don't know what else is in order. A suspension? A bigger fine? It was bad enough for a point default. But more? I dunno.

I say Serena should be on SNL in a couple weeks. She needs to make light of this and have some fun. Just go on SNL and threaten to shove the tennis ball down people's throats.

Craig Hickman said...

Probably because Serena's reaction overshadowed the line call.

It was a ridiculous call. All foot faults are ridiculous calls. They simply have no place in professional tennis.

As someone else said, what's done is done.

The press is making it more than it needs to be. Some are using it as an opportunity/excuse to advance malignant agendas.

PeytonAllen said...


To my point last night if she wasn't acting then it was a quick trigger. It was out of character and she seemed to accept it pretty quickly and was smiling about it on camera to Venus. If she truly lost it, then I agree with Martina she's gonna have to do some soul searching, because she came into that match on edge.

As a white male i realize its far too easy for me to be naive on this subject, but I can't buy the suggestions than the linesperson waited all match to push through an agenda and finally had the right spot. She made a bad call. The umpire who thought Fed could get to that ace today was out of mind too.

Re: the media. Johnny Mac was must see TV because of such out burst. This was tennis in the 70s.

It's a big story. Being defaulted on match point for abusing a lines person, to think the media should just slap her on the wrist and forget about it..come on.

Is Serena a bad person? etc. etc. heck no. She made a mistake. But it was a big one, and black or white it deserves time.

Craig Hickman said...

I'm not so sure that lineswoman will never work again.

Last time the tournament apologized to Serena for a bad call and the official who exercised that terrible judgment is still working.


I would like to think a chair ump would have some discretion, but that chair ump has to have the gonads to use it. This one clearly didn't. Afterall, she could have used discretion and not given Serena a violation for racquet abuse at the end of the first set.

Was Gonzo penalized in the quarterfinal?

As it was, the linesperson exhibited more power than the chair ump and that ought never be the case.


After a day to think about it, the exact point in Serena's reaction that I will not excuse or explain away is when she stepped up in that woman's face. You don't do that. Cussing or screaming or maybe even threatening from your place out on the court is one thing. Getting up in her face was another.

Christopher Crocker said...

I really do find it amazing how people can say what a bad call that was when, from the replays that I saw on the live coverage, there was no camera angle to provide any evidence toward either side. I'm not saying that it was a good call or a bad call, just that the line judge had a much better perspective that I did.

As for making those calls late in a match, tennis is certainly not football or hockey, so the argument for letting late calls go by the wayside seems ill-fitted to tennis. Besides, in football for example, a linesman would never let a receiver who steps on the line, even if it's just his pinky toe, continue without making the call just because it is late in the game. The boundries are clearly marked for a reason.

If the line judge did see her step on the line, should she simply ignore it just because it is late in the match? I assume most people don't agree with this, and that their particular gripe is that if the call is questionable, err on the side of letting the players play. This is sound reasoning, but from the angles that I have seen, the call is not clearly wrong or right, and thus I would err on the side of the line judge, who had a much better angle than I did.c

Craig Hickman said...

Peyton, I don't believe I've insinuated such a motivation for the linesperson's decision to make the call.

This doesn't have to be a big story. And the media need not be in the business of punishing athletes. That's what the sports' governing bodies are for.

Serena is being penalized. I have no problem with that. And I don't think she's just getting a slap on the wrist either. A maximum fine is a maximum fine.

I have a problem with the media blowing it out of proportion and trying to make it a bigger story than it is.

Helen W said...

Well Christopher I can't argue with your voice of reason too much. But I think the weight of collective wisdom says that if the linesperson is not absolutely positive that there is a foot fault, they shouldn't call it. And certainly not at such a crucial point in the match. I agree that the replays didn't definitively indicate whether there was a foot fault, but they *did* show that if there was, it was a matter of millimeters. And if it was that small, then I question whether any linesperson could be positive that it occurred, and IAC it could not have had any impact on the point. (See Tom Perrotta's discussion on foot faults in pro tennis on So in toto I think it was a bogus call.

Before hawk-eye, players who thought they had received a bad call could appeal to the chair umpire. It seems to me that that option should be available on the question of foot faults, and if there is a question, the player should get another chance to serve.

oddman said...

I missed the event. Saw something on youtube. Agree with Craig, Serena walking over to the linesperson and getting in her space was out of line.

All the chatter on the boards about the rules, the rules, etc... footfault is still a footfault, etc... why IS it that we 'don't call those at a crucial time in a match', to quote JMac? If it's a fault, even on matchpoint, some are arguing, then it counts. But, past experience has been these kinds of things DON'T get called at crucial points in matches. I recall JMac going off on the ump for calling Rafa for too much time on his serve at breakpoint down in a few matches.

I'm not arguing that the rules ARE the rules. I'm saying we have been 'trained' or have learned from past experience that calls like these aren't usually made late in matches, etc. We have this to pattern our next behaviours on.. and when something like this happens, it's so unreal, so unexpected, I think it's not unusual for a person to lose their cool.

How do you enforce these kinds of 'sometimes' rules?

The whole thing is difficult, since it's such a grey area - at what point in a match does it become 'wrong' to call penalties?

Christopher Crocker said...

I agree with your line of reasoning as well Helen, but I simply cannot cull the same conclusions from the video evidence.

Pamela said...

If you're not sure, you don't call a foot fault at that juncture of a semifinal in a major. You err on the side of caution.

Serena went overboard with the rant, but it wasn't suspension worthy. I've read some of the most vile stuff about her and it's being made into a far bigger deal than it really is. There is a double standard.

I can't and won't defend the indefensible but somewhere along the way fairness should come into place. I just hate the whole situation.

Looks like because of Serena yet another system will be put in place. You have to think at some point you lose your cool when you're shafted in this way.

I don't know what else to say. I'm glad the season is over. Those who don't like her will find this as ammunition to complain for years, and those who do are disappointed but will forgive her for a poor decision in the moment. She wasn't the first or the worst offender of a player losing their cool.

Christopher Crocker said...

Yes, talks of a suspension are way out of line. I even question whether a fine was necessary. One thing though, the linesperson deserved an apology, and hopefully, though there was no mention in Serena Williams public statement, she will get a personal one. It was despicable to speak such words to a person over a tennis match.

Aziz said...

I don't know if any of you has visited Serena's website.

But a fan of her that I have been for the past 10 years, I have learned to love Serena and accept her wart and all.

But it does not mean I just simply bow to what she did yesterday. While I fully acknowledge that she has acted inappropriate, it seems funny how many of us seem to have forgotten that she is also a human being - a girl - who has emotions and mostly makes mistakes in her life.

It's easier to have your fingers pointed at her, saying that she has acted foolish, but I would like to see how you yourself would have reacted if you were in her shoes.

I don't want to start playing race card here, but I have been to so many websites, and I have never been to one without racial remarks uttered about her. Instead of looking at her as just another tennis player who deserves to be address accordingly, many of us still see her with you-know-what.

I just hope Serena will come back strong, winning a couple more Grand Slams and happily retired. Then maybe I'll stop watching tennis, too.

Because the person that has changed my life, who has shown to the world that nothing gonna stand in your way if you just believe and such inspiration that she has been, has given her all and unfortunately, will always go unappreciated, not by others, but by her own people, the country she has served so many years.

p/s: Congrats, Kim for winning the US Open 2009. Your win means a lot to the American! Opps! I forgot that it was the Belgian flag I saw rising the moment you won! =)

Karen said...

So last year Serena plays a fantastic match to win the USOpen and the only place you could see a replay was on You Tube. Clijsters wins the US Open and I am able to see the repeat on ESPN2 now. I understand that TC showed the semis again. Last year I did not see one ball hit. This year's USO is so over for me right now. I have been catching up on the main stream press and I have to say that I dont think I have ever seen another athlete take such a hit in the press. Not even Michael Vick. Who did Serena kill? Yes, her behaviour was deplorable (though quite funny) but all through this tournie the Sisters have been getting foot faults. I recall in one instance there was a stare down by Serena and Venus asked one of the judges which foot. I dont even know what to say about the whole thing anymore. Off to bed as have work in the morning.

cp said...

Peyton:Linesmen and umpire against Djokovic.

The chair umpire made a bad call. Apparently, Novak Djokovic made a good serve, the chair
umpire overruled the noncall and called the serve out, Djokovic challenged the umpire and was proved right by the replay, and then, even though Roger Federer did not even touch Djokovic's
serve, the chair umpire did not give Djokovic the ace. After all that... The linesmen made so many bad calls, Djokovic's challenges
were right six out of seven times.

How can there be that many bad calls against one person?

BayouPeach said...

I'm totally disgusted with the way the whole thing has been handled. I've always been a fan of Serena's and I think she's a great champion. Did she go overboard last night? Absolutely. Was the line judge wrong for making that call? Absolutely. I agree with bambam, it seems that Serena seems to get a lot of these bad breaks with line calls. I mean her match with Capriati led to the hawkeye challenge system in the first place. Is this coincidental? You tell me.....

She paid the maximum fine and issued her apology, so I think that she can move on from it.

Please don't get me started on those darn commentators. Especially Carillo. I've never liked her and I sense that she is jealous of the sisters because she never in her wildest dreams could have the type of success that they have. She picks up any opportunity to bad mouth them. It's funny to me how Hengis can get caught doping, Henin retires under shady circumstances, Kim can leave and have a baby, but all heck breaks lose when Venus and Serena do something outside of tennis, like try to secure their financial futures. They know they won't be playing tennis forever. How can you bad mouth them for not playing all the smaller tournaments. They are darn near 30 years old. Why on Earth would they risk getting hurt to play in every tournament? It makes no sense. I'm so disgusted right now...I don't know what to do with myself.

Dapxin said...

just woke up,
and here I come - like a religion :)

As said,
that Andy's quote,
becomes more
and more powerful,
as the days roll-by.

I mean in encapsulating,
just what-a-career,these
two iconic girls have had.

Their place will not be
truly defined,
until they were long gone.

The truth of the matter,
to a casual observer,
as me,
is that, they have basically
had to do things, the harder,
extra way,
to be where/who they are;

So to snap! is understandable,
but ***not*** excusable.

Serena will be fine.

I just hope her motivation
and all doesn't dip after here.

I really do hope.

Dan Scarlett said...

Anyone--black, white or shades of brown--can lose their cool and do the 'unacceptable'. The bottom line--that many comments elsewhere have mentioned-- is that, worse than what she did, was the fact that she did not apologize in
her presser--choosing instead to spin a justification.

rabbit said...

I agree with most people here. What bowls me over is that McEnroe is making comments. What an authority to speak on the subject!

Beth said...

I am still confused about the idea that the call was bad. The linesperson called it. Are people suggesting she did it on purpose to screw Serena? If that's the case, then we really ARE in the Twilight Zone. I completely agree with Christopher Crocker's take on this. And I would say this no matter what player was called out. Also, as someone else mentioned, there is no definitive footage that shows us the foot fault clearly enough (or at the right angle) for us to see it so who are any of us to declare it was bogus. Rules are rules and we can't have them be rules only at the 'right' time in a match.

Beth said...

That being said, I do think Mary Carillo was obviously going after Serena in her comments. You could hear the venom in her voice. What's up with that? And JMac's stupid comments - of all people to even DREAM of having something to say......I think that Connors and Martina had the most salient commentary about the situation.

Craig Hickman said...

Taking responsibility for your actions is far better than an empty apology.

How many times to people say "I'm sorry" and turn right back around and make the same mistake?

Serena's statement was perfectly fine and it was recognized as perfectly by a WTA spokesperson.

Propagandists are piling on. Heavy, heavy. You really would think Serena threw a racquet at the woman and harmed her physically. Other players, by the way, have done just that and no one ever even mentioned a suspension. In fact, at Roland Garros in 2003 Guillermo Coria did in the semifinals. He was about to be defaulted from the match when Martin Verkerk pleaded with the umpire to let the match play out. It played out. Verkerk moved on to his first Slam final. Coria was probably fined, though I don't remember a report about it. No one called or his suspension.

Of course Serena Williams is a more high profile athlete than Coria, but I'll say it again: it's not up to the media to indict or punish Serena.

She made her statement, she'll pay her fine, she'll move on.

Will we?

Craig Hickman said...

Beth, can you summarize Martina's and Connors' takes, please?

Beth said...

I can't remember everything they said but they definitely spoke from a place of wisdom and understanding that emotions can get out of hand in a match but you have to keep a handle on them. Neither one of them had anything 'strong' to say about it, except, of course that it would be better if it hadn't happened. I just remember the general tone and that they seemed to comment on it more carefully than others.

Craig Hickman said...

Thanks, Beth. They've both been there. Connors called a chair umpire an abortion to his face and wasn't even penalized a point. Martina had a foul, foul mouth and rarely hesitated to use it when things didn't go her way. By and large, their behavior has been forgiven, if not forgotten. Their legacies remain intact.

I can't imagine the same won't happen for Serena. I believe too many people believe her behavior, though deplorable, was nonetheless justified. The propagandists won't be successful in trying to turn her into a criminal. Though some of them will continue to try.

The mute button has become my best friend.

tangerine said...

John McEnroe thinks she should be suspended but her suspension should be that she be forced to play the smaller events in the fall that she probably wasn't going to play anyway because that would be good for the sport.

LOL. I thought John McEnroe's comment was funny. "Punish her by making her play more events!"

Defaulting her from doubles (as Carillo suggested) wouldn't be fair to Venus.

As for Serena's statement, a simple apology would have gone a long way.

tangerine said...

Now that I've read the comments here I'm surprised a few of you are angry at John McEnroe. Was I the only one who thought he was joking? He's well aware that he's not one to point fingers and say "shame on you!" for bad behavior. Saying Serena should play more events was the extent of his 'criticism'. It was Carillo who heaped on the scorn.

Beth said...

I couldn't tell whether JMac was joking or not. I guess I didn't tune into him that closely. Definitely Carillo threw the gauntlet down.

Craig, to speak to what you are saying....whenever I catch one of the old 'meltdown' matches of Connors or JMac I am shocked that they weren't defaulted and kicked out off the court. WTF was going on back in the day? Then again, this was the heyday of Archie and Edith Bunker so what the hell do I expect. Connors and JMac were so verbally abusive and beyond rude it's not even funny. I totally agree that indiscretions of the past were let go, and now there seems to be much less tolerance for players letting words fly.

Craig Hickman said...

Serena Apologizes

Ahmed said...

Uhm why are there still officials calling foot faults anyway without replay proof? We've been to the moon folks so why can't we also have technology that can monitor players' feet when they serve? If there's a foot fault--the player can use one of their challenges to see if indeed the fault was called correctly. Done. No more arguments. Unless you have a Chair Umpire who decides to change an Ace into a replayed point just cuz he can do that a la Djokovic/ Federer match.

Craig Hickman said...

All foot fall calls are bogus.

They need to be done away with entirely in professional tennis.