We’ve been here before. Serena Williams taking centre stage for the right reasons in Grand Slam matches is not unheard of–in fact, it’s one of the most common situaitons in tennis. But on final Saturday in one of the most controversially staged finals at Flushing Meadows, she stole Naomi Osaka’s limelight–and perhaps more shockingly, created a situation where a champion was made to apologize for winning.
This was supposed to be a coronation, a celebration of the coming woman in tennis. The post match speeches were meant to adhere to the brilliance of Naomi Osaka’s fearless performance, but that has quickly been forgotten in a flash. The bare facts should have been that Japanese woman, Osaka, at 20 years old, would not be distracted by the moment, and emotion, and excelled in her maiden Grand Slam final. Instead, in the chaotic aftermath, the 23-time Grand Slam winner, Williams, berated the chair umpire Carlos Ramos, and accused him of sexism.
Just like her successful stints in New York, which include six titles, the city has also been witness to Serena Williams’ most contentious moments on a tennis court.
The Foot Fault in 2009 US Open Semifinal
One of the lowest moments in Williams’ career happened at this exact venue as her latest incident. In the 2009 semifinals, Serena Williams ran into an inspired Kim Clijsters, who had made her very own comeback from pregnancy to devastating effect.
Trailing by a set, and serving to stay in the match at 5-6, 15-30, Serena missed a first serve, and her second serve was called a foot fault by the line judge, meaning she was match point down, prompting a heated foul-mouthed reaction from the American. Williams strode to the lineswoman at the far end, waving her racket and threatened the lines judge with a tennis ball pointed in her direction. The linesperson reported to the Chair umpire immediately after, and the tournament referee Brian Earley (who will step down from his position after the conclusion of Sunday’s Men’s singles finals), and supervisor walked on court to clear the situation. During a four-way discussion, Williams was heard saying, “I never said I would kill you. Are you serious? I never said that.”
After receiving a warning for her conduct in the opening set for breaking a racket, she was automatically handed a point penalty, much to a stunned Clijsters, who edged a terrific contest.
She was fined $10,000 in the aftermath of the offense and subsequently handed a hefty $82,500 record fine (initially $175,000 before it was reduced).
Serena would later apologize for her actions that year.
Her Rant at Eva Asderaki in the 2011 US Open final
At 2011 US Open final, Serena Williams was deservedly beaten by Samantha Stosur of Australia, but this time she became involved in a furious row with the chair umpire Eva Asderaki, culminating in Williams refusing to shake the umpire’s hand.
Asderaki, who umpired 2015 Men’s Singles final a the US Open, is one of the best chair umpires in the game. The flashpoint came during the second game in the second set when Williams struck a seemingly-unreturnable forehand in an attempt to save a break point. Stosur lunged for the ball and made contact, but could not return the ball back.
The umpire Asderaki called the point back because of Serena Williams “come on” roar which came just before Stosur made contact with the ball. Given that this was a hindrance call, Stosur was given the point, and Serena lost her service game.
It was an unedifying moment as Williams embarked on a tirade at Eva Asderaki. She said, “Aren’t you the one who screwed me over the last time? Are you coming after me? That is totally not cool.”
However, Williams was mistaken. Asderaki was not the umpire during the Clijsters match.
At the change of ends Serena went on to lash out at Asderaki again for punishing her for expressing her emotion. The circumstances did not unsettle the Australian opponent whom, just Clijsters before her, managed to see out the match.
Serena was fined $2,000 as a result of code violation issued for verbal abuse.