Following a surprise loss to Sofia Kenin, 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams was due a meeting with the press. The main conference room, however, was occupied with men’s fourth seed and last year’s finalist Dominic Thiem. Instead of waiting it out, for one reason or another, the tournament officials decided to kick the Austrian out the room. Before leaving you can clearly hear the 25-year-old saying, “I don’t really get it, seriously. I mean, what the hell? No, but it’s a joke, really. I have to leave the room because she’s coming?”.
Whether or not Serena Williams asked or requested Thiem to be removed or not, the fact that French Open officials let it happen is quite disrespectful to say the least. There’s absolutely no reason any player–let alone someone with Dominic Thiem’s credentials–deserves to be treated the way he was. Rightfully so, the Austrian refused to do any more press talk after being kicked out, hopefully sending a message to the tournament.
The sad thing is, why are we even surprised? I’ll never dispute Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players of all time–even one of the greatest sportspeople to ever live. But this is far from the first time where her actions outside of hitting tennis balls has been a disgrace. Don’t believe me? Let’s have a look at just a few other incidences.
US Open 2009
Perhaps the most famous incident of Serena Williams’ tennis career. Just a few points away from defeat against Belgian Kim Clijsters, a lineswoman called a foot fault on the defending champion. In disapproval she approached the woman, telling her “”I swear to God I’ll f****** take the ball and shove it down your f****** throat.”
With the situation turning into a bigger deal and the tournament referee coming on court to assess the situation, the American would then go on to deny she threatened to kill the lineswoman before receiving a point penalty and handing the match to Clijsters, embarrassing herself and the sport at the same time. For her actions, Williams was fined over $80,000.
US Open 2011
Just two years after the previous incident in New York, yet another happened, this time with umpire Eva Asderaki. Down a set and break point, the then six-time US Open champion hit a big forehand only to shout “come on” well before her opponent Samantha Stosur could get a racquet on the ball. In light of this, the umpire had no choice but to award the Australian the point and therefore the break of serve, as per the rules.
Instead of accepting the decision Williams demanded that she’s “not giving her the game,” as if she was the one in charge before the umpire refused to change her call. Things then got personal with “you’re nobody,” “you’re ugly on the inside,” and then shouting “We were in America last time I checked,” “you’re totally out of control,” “you’re a hater,” “you’re unattractive inside,” and “what a loser.” No doubt every comment completely uncalled for.
There’s absolutely nothing that can justify any of these comments or how personal she got over an umpire simply doing her job correctly. What’s even worse is the incident overshadowed Samantha Stosur’s amazing performance and only Slam. No one deserves to have their big moment stolen from them in the way Williams did.
US Open 2018
Sadly, much like Samantha Stosur, Naomi Osaka had her big moment stolen from her much the same way thanks to Serena Williams. During the second set umpire Carlos Ramos gave the American a warning for her coach “coaching” her, which is against the rules during a match. In disagreement, Williams–in her second Slam final in a row demanded an apology–claiming she’s never cheated in her life.
Things escalated even further with the former champion telling Ramos he’ll never share the same court as her again and that he’s “a liar” and “a cheat,” before claiming he was being sexist when she said “there are men out here who do a lot worse than me, but, because I’m a woman, you are going to take this away from me? That is not right,” totally out of context trying to deflect the situation. Afterwards, research was actually done and they found Ramos had actually given more warnings to men than women.
The incident totally ruined Osaka experiencing her maiden Slam win the way she dreamt of. Even when she won there was booing, and despite this Williams’ still had the audacity to call the crowd the “best in the world” before a speechless and teary (for the wrong reasons) Osaka held the trophy.
Steubenville Rape Case 2013
It’s pretty obvious Serena Williams is a feminist. Just last year she surprised a group of young girls with a private screening of Black Panther, just one of many instances where she’s put herself forwards as a great role model to young women.
However, back in 2013, two male Steubenville High School students were accused and convicted of raping a drunk 16-year old girl. When asked about this, some of Williams’ responses include “I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you, don’t take drinks from other people,” “she’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember,” and “she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.” (She did apologize for those comments.)
Like you would expect, such a stance gained huge traction on social media, with many criticizing the great tennis champion for her comments and rightfully so. How can anyone even suggest even part of the blame should be put on the victim in such circumstances? It’s sickening.
Family Circle Cup 2013
With Jelena Jankovic serving early in the second set, Williams was in a crouched position looked ready to return serve. Instead, she held her racquet up in the middle of Jankovic’s service motion, causing the umpire to play a let.
The Serbian questioned how long she had to wait and while the rules of the game are to play at the pace of the server, the American replied, “Until I’m ready. I don’t play slow.” If you think that’s bad, Jankovic replied that Serena looked ready before the American yet again replied “You got a problem? I’m not the one,” as if Jankovic was at fault.
Mocking Dinara Safina Being World #1
After winning Wimbledon in 2009, Williams found herself with three Slams on her ranking but still World No. 2. In the top spot was Russian Dinara Safina, Slamless. While it’s pretty obvious the “real” No. 1 so to speak was obviously the Wimbledon champion, the rankings showed otherwise.
When giving an interview and her opinion on such matters she decided to say, “I think Dinara did a great job to be World No. 1, she won in Rome and Madrid” sarcastically before snorting with laughter. It’s one thing to not agree with the ranking system; in a situation like, that who would? But to mock how the woman at World No. 1 has got there? Can’t say I’m a fan.
Calling fellow competitors “b******”
17-year-old Maria Sharapova shocked the world by winning Wimbledon in 2004 beating Serena Williams in the final. Sharpova, in her book, claims that after the match in the locker rooms she walked in to find Williams crying and even overhearing the then seven-time champion call her a “b****.”
Whether or not it actually happened and the Russian heard it right or not we’ll never know, but there’s another incident which is plain for anyone to see–and that’s against Justine Henin at the US Open in 2007, an opponent she had history with. On the way to a loss while waiting to return serve, she calls her opponent a “b****.” No doubt Serena Williams isn’t the most gracious winner out there.
Like I said earlier, I’ll never go against Serena Williams being one of the best athletes ever. Her achievements say more than enough, and nothing can take that away from her. However, when it comes to many incidents, it’s hard to not agree she’s crossed way over the line.
If it were any other player, it’s hard to see how they wouldn’t be made into a much bigger deal, especially given the number of problems Williams has caused over the years.
Why she’s gotten off lightly for so many incidents is up for you to decide, but it’s hard to argue that isn’t the case. Surely we must reach a point where we have to say enough is enough? It’s long past time to stop treating Serena Williams with the kid gloves that everyone has for so long. If we don’t call her out when her actions hurt the sport, nothing will stop similar actions–from her or anyone else–in the future.
Embed from Getty Images