Serena outburst: was there any excuse?

September 13, 2009

TENNIS-OPEN/OK, don’t shoot me down for saying this, but can anyone see Saturday’s double-fault storm at the US Open from Serena Williams’s point of view?

With a place in the U.S. Open final at stake — and with many believing the winner of the Williams-Kim Clijsters showdown would go on to win the title — how frustrating is it to get foot-faulted on a second serve at 4-6 5-6 15-30 down?

Can anyone remember when someone was foot-faulted at such an important moment of a key match like a grand slam semi-final before?

Should a line-judge go by the book if she sees a foot-fault or would it have been better to have just let it go at such a crucial point in the contest?

With the adrenaline already pumping through her, and the thought of going match point down, Serena lost control.

Astounded by the verdict, she flipped out and marched to the official, shouting, waving her racket and shaking a ball in her clenched fist.

“I swear to God I’m… going to take this… ball and shove it down your… throat, you hear that? I swear to God. You better be glad — you better be glad that I’m not, I swear.” Williams told the line-judge in her expletive-laden rant.

There is no excuse for the language or the tone she used against a woman who was simply doing her job, but can people at least understand the state of mind Serena found herself in?

And will this episode forever be a stain on her record, no matter how many grand slam titles she wins?

PHOTO: Serena Williams yells at a line judge after being called for a foot foul during her semi-final match against Kim Clijsters of Belgium at the U.S. Open in New York, September 12, 2009. REUTERS/Shaun Best


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Dear Writer,
I am a lover of tennis.
Whatever happened became topic for few more days.
Here, question of umpires decision did not arise at all.
Being a great player,Serena Williams should not have exposed her anger in bad ways.
Always great,noted players should approach any problems while playing by calm,rational and very polite manners.
I think that she will not exhibit these sorts of outburst in future games.

The line judge did her job and Serena was being outplayed well before that. She was unprepared and unfortunately it wasn’t the cakewalk she expected.

Posted by citmyway | Report as abusive

I’m sure the line judge is a racist. Jimmy Carter should get involved in this one too.

Posted by Al | Report as abusive

Is this the same Micheal Vick who trained and killed helpless dogs? If it was a white tennis player cursing a black line judge it would be all the liberals hollering racism.Heat of the moment or not.Where is the decency and respect for others? Great role model for the children of this world! Sounds just like Mr. West and what he did to Ms. Swift! If you think that blacks,whites,yellows,browns or reds can’t be racist your living in a fantasy world.I t would be right for Ms. williams to apology to this lady.” I’m sorry for the way I acted ,yet still disagree with your call”

Posted by robert garza | Report as abusive


Posted by chck | Report as abusive

There can never be a justificatin for using the “F” word multiple times against someone trying to simply do their job. Good-call or bad-call aside, she treated the line judge as nothing short of a pion.

It is inexcusable behavior and should be followed by a much harsher action than a mere $10K penalty!

Posted by James Baker | Report as abusive

I have sympathy for Serena’s explosion. However, in the best understanding of being a professional tennis player, you have to retain composure and get on with it. The outburst ultimately led to the disciplinary loss of an additional point and the match. HHHMMM???

Posted by D Cooper | Report as abusive

I have sympathy for Serena’s position especially during such a critical game in the match up. When everything is on the line at this point, adrenaline will get the better of you at most times in that scenario. No this is not acceptable behaviour by no means, but even the best of us can lose control.

Posted by Vic De Zen | Report as abusive

Does 15 seconds of anger define a stellar 10 yr career ? Of course not .
Unlike Connors or McEnroe who have a history of line person abuse, she doesn’t and we know this.
We know the effect, but what about the cause. Was the foot fault call that set all this in motion correct ? John McEnroe says no.
I did hear Federer curse at the umpire in his final during an arguement, ain’t nobody say anything about that.

Posted by rawdog | Report as abusive

Regarding Serena’s implosion at the 2009 US Open:
Admittedly some outbursts of great players (toward the chair) can be entertaining and, at times, appropriate. This attack (toward the nearby lineswoman) is actually pretty scary, and she looked like she was going to follow up on her “threat”. Remember, by rule, a player does not address a line umpire, only the chair. In her post-match interview, she did not apologize, she just rolled her eyes as if she were the victim. I think the only way for her to possibly crawl out of this, is to take time off and announce that she is attending anger management counselling, and to voluntarily write a six digit check payable to the line umpire that had to endure that humiliating abuse. Am I wrong for now feeling embarrassed for cheering her on in the past ? Watch it for yourself via the following link: N8

Posted by Kevin McGeary | Report as abusive

Serena was a “Disrespectful” Loser to all officals and especially to her rival, Kim. Her lack of “sportsmanship and respect” is inexcusable. Foot fault or not, she would have NOT won the match.

You’re kidding right? You’re making excuses for that behavior. It is this line of thought that leads to every single failure to accept responsibility for wrong-doing in our society. Why can’t you just accept that she did something WRONG? Why can’t she simply accept responsibility for her actions and move on? If she is unable to control her temper on the highest stage of tennis….then get off of it and CHOOSE not to get back on. No one is forcing her to play, but they are requesting that she play within the rules of the game and decorum.

Posted by tennisfreak | Report as abusive

Lets continue to slam Serena for shouting at a line Judge in a sporting event and let the guy off the hook who called the President of the United States a lair on national TV in a respected chamber of our government! He also apologized. Where does the double standard end? How is it that people fail to see the reality of bias when it comes to folk of color who are overachievers or even the startling disparities we see in our schools and the workplace? Lets deny that also and say it is the fault of the participant. Does anyone remember John McEnroe?

Posted by Justin Mann | Report as abusive

I love the way Serena waved to the crowd as she left the stadium. She is clueless, ghetto and has a little too much testosterone. Her constant stare downs are overly aggressive. The womens game has too many unforced error but i can’t wait for someone to continually spank her which might never happen. Clijsters is great to watch and very professional.

Posted by Damian Campbell | Report as abusive

Totally unacceptable. SHe is a professional and has lost her share of big tournaments without losing her cool. She acted like a hockey father and deserves a suspension. I have always been impressed with her success but this definately stains her memory as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

A foot fault is a foot fault. Doesn’t matter if the match is on the line, or if you just started. She should be heavily fined and suspended for her utter lack of respect shown to the line judge. Even if the judge would have called it wrong, the behavior she displayed is unacceptable.

As for the remark made in a previous comment about it having to do with color, good grief…do you think everything is racially motivated? Some people just won’t let that issue go I guess. I don’t believe this was racially motivated, just as the incident with the President (“You Lie”) was not racially motivated either. Let’s stick with the issue, and not be using the race card. There’s no use for it.

Posted by LaMont | Report as abusive

She is a poor example to young people — a classless act who should not be allowed on a tennis court. She SHOULD be ashamed of herself. But she isn’t and that is a tragedy.

Posted by Terrel | Report as abusive

Absolutyely suspend her. Jeff Tarango blew up at the chair ump in 95 at Wimbledon and was suspended from the next years tourney and fined $10k. I think Serena should get that at the least. Can’t do it, terrible example product of her playing only the slams.

Posted by whiteshadow | Report as abusive

90% think Serena is in the wrong here. Guess what. They’re missing the point. Look at other sporting events which rely on judges to call “fouls”. In hockey, at the end of the match, the ref almost needs a needs a postcard depicting a near decapitation to be plastered on his forehead to call a penalty. In basketball, fouls are a dime a dozen towards the end. Bottom line, any good referee knows to let the game play itself out and only intervene when necessary.

Her bahavior? Brawls in hockey are accepted, yelling and even chest thumping the baseball umpire is tolerated. Did she go too far? Definitely… a little. In tennis, you don’t get “fouled”, you get faulted, and there’s still no hawkeye for a footfault. If this is my livelihood on the line, and I have no teammate or coach to rely on out there, I’ll sure as hell get my message across one way or the other. That’s how it is in tennis. A solo warrior. That line judge and anyone lacking common sense had best stay away from the game.

Posted by Brey | Report as abusive


Posted by mary hill | Report as abusive

First did she foot fault Yes or no? were there ANY more foot faults in this match by either player? Yes or No….were they called?…were foot faults being called through out the tournment? If this rule is to be applied it HAS to be the same for EVERYONE…I saw two rackets abused and broken my men I did not see them warned or penalized? Again Rules must be applied evenly. How many rackets were broken….how many warnings issued?…It appears reasonable that Serena might have been cheated if so then she might have been understated in her response?

Posted by Jimmie | Report as abusive

Just a bit of clarification…I am an older player, played tournments, I defended Serena earlier, though I am not her biggest fan…I love Venus though. It remains a fairly good possibility that Serena was cheated. No one seems interested in looking in to that possibility. If you are going to call foot faults…every one of them has to be called….if you are going to penalize racket busting then every one who brakes a racket must be penalized, if not you are going to drive some people a little crazy

Posted by Jimmie | Report as abusive

Read LaMont’s comment… Need not comment any further on that. Perfectly put

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Kevin are a dam fool, why should an african american write a 6 digit check to these white people, did John McEnroe write one to african ameicans. dam fools like Jessie Jackson may write a check. Her punishment should be the same as John’s.Oh was she right or wrong?

Posted by sylvester pinkney | Report as abusive

Can’t she challenge a foot fault and use the chase review cameras for a review? Was she out of challenges? According to the announcer Kim Clijsters stands 6 inches behind the baseline and did not even come close to foot faulting the entire match. Regarding comparing her to McEnroe, McEnroe never physically threatened anyone. If she would have called the judge names and not threatened her then that would have been like Mac. But she threatened her with physical violence which deserves a lost point and fine for her or anyone else regardless of their race.

Posted by joe stephens | Report as abusive