The Tennis Thug (Updated)
Serena Williams' behavior on Saturday night at the U.S. Open was so appalling, so disgraceful on so many levels it's hard to know where to start.
Certainly, it was unusual to see a female professional athlete conduct herself in such a manner, something we've just not seen even with the explosion of women's sports. We now know a woman can be just as much of a jerk or a thug as any man while playing a sport. Congratulations.
What bothered me the most? It was the attitude, the sneering of the multi-millionaire Williams who rained insults down upon the official as though to say, "I'm Serena Williams. You are nothing. You have no right to make a call that interferes with my wonderfulness. You are dirt. You don't deserve to live, but because all these people are around, I will spare your worthless life."
For someone who has on occasion claimed racial prejudice when she has been offended by treatment in tournaments, it was indeed bizarre to see Williams screaming profanities at the small, Asian female judge while brandishing her racquet in a threatening manner.
Full marks to the lineswoman for standing up to Williams, and full marks to tournament officials for backing their official and imposing the code violation that ended Williams' tournament. Some are suggesting the foot fault that ignited the entire controversy shouldn't have been called, at least not at that point in the match. And if a serve was slightly out? Don't call that rule because the match is too close? Tennis pros will tell you foot-faulting doesn't really provide much of an advantage, if any, to the server, but if you have an person there to make the call and they make the call, suggesting they should hold their tongue depending on the score is absurd.
Williams has already been fined $10,500 in total for her ridiculous performance, and it's theoretically possible she could lose her entire $350,000 purse if tennis decides this was a major violation.This one's up to the Grand Slam committee and the USTA, but it's a tricky problem that also lands in the lap of Stacey Allaster, a Canadian who is now at the helm of the women's tour. The already trashy Serena has now veered into Britney Spears territory, and women's tennis understands image is a very big deal in that industry.
Some have talked of suspension for Williams, but really, being eliminated from a Grand Slam semi-final is a pretty big penalty already. It's not like the next Grand Slam event is next week. It's in January in Australia.
A simple heartfelt apology would make the difference, not the contrived public relations doubletalk produced in an official statement yesterday. The apology should be made publicly and in person to the official in question
(Ed. Note: Well, despite some who believe Williams had nothing to apologize for, she has now done so, albeit 36 hours after the fact. It took her a botched press conference and one lame press statement before she got it right, but she has now "sincerely apologized" for her "inappropriate outburst", offering that apology to the lineswoman, her opponent Kim Clijsters, the USTA and tennis fans. Glad to see she finally figured it out.")