Serena Williams got off almost scot-free for her despicable behavior during the Women’s Singles final at the U.S Open on Sunday. To recap , this is what happened when she played Samantha Stosur : Facing break point at 30-40, Williams sent an apparent forehand winner to Stosur’s backhand side. “Come on!” Williams screamed as Stosur stabbed at the ball, making contact.The contact brought into play the hindrance rule. Under the rule, if the distraction is unintentional, like a hat blowing off a player’s head, or a scream from a bee sting, the point is replayed. If the action is deliberate, as in this case, the point is awarded to the opponent.The chair umpire, Eva Asderaki, informed the crowd that Stosur had been awarded the point and the game, and that was when Serena blew her top. These are some of the things she said as she mouthed off at Asderski :
¶ “If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way. You’re out of control. You’re a hater and you’re unattractive inside.”
¶ “Code violation for this? I expressed who I am. We’re in America last time I checked.”
¶ “I hate you.”
For this she was fined $ 2,000…. peanuts for someone who earned $1, 400, 000 for her play at the U.S Open. Nor will there be any further penalties . Williams is still on probation for her blow-up at the Open two years ago when she verbally repeatedly abused a lineswoman who had called a foot fault on her. On that occasion , Williams had been fined $ 82,5000 and placed on probation . This time ,the authorities determined , in their wisdom , that Serena’s despicable behavior did not constitute a violation of her probation.
Reactions to the incident have been divided .
On Monday, on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” the analyst Chris Evert said Williams’s fine felt like a “slap on the wrist.” She noted that Williams had yet to apologize. Nor did Williams shake Asderaki’s hand after the match. Evert continued. “When I saw the comments she made, my first impression was just stunned. I was so surprised how disrespectful and rude she was. The umpire did not deserve that treatment. She was just doing her job. She made the right call.”
ESPN’s Pam Shriver, in a telephone interview, took a different tack. She said that she could only recall two such hindrance penalties … the one against Serena and another against Marion Bartoli earlier in the Open. Noting that in this instance Williams did not use profanity, Shriver said that perhaps Williams felt pressure playing on Sept. 11, in New York, in front of an American crowd. “It wasn’t anything like what happened two years ago,” Shriver said.“Sure, it was obnoxious and whatever. But I don’t think it was horrific. I don’t think it’s a pattern.” Really ?!! I can’t believe Pam Shriver said that !! As far as excuses go , I don’t think they come any lamer than that.I refuse to believe that playing on 9/11 had anything to do with Serena’s meltdown. I agree fully with what Chris Evert said and I feel Serena should have been deemed to have violated the terms of her probation, fined a meaningful amount and banned from playing in next year’s Open.
As far as I’m concerned , the worst thing about the incident was what happened afterwards . Even though Samantha Stosur had nothing to do with the infraction being called on Serena , the crowd turned on her and began applauding her errors . This was totally uncalled for and I’m very glad Stosur held her nerve to close out the match 6-2, 6-3.
Earlier in the week , there was an article in the New York Times describing the loutish behavior of fans at the Open , particularly those in the luxury boxes. They come not to watch the tennis, but to party and have a good time . At one time , tennis was a genteel sport and there were standards of behavior on and off the court . Alas , those days are long gone and we are all the worse for it .