Losing is losing, violations are for everyone, and Serena Williams just let the chair umpire know she doesn’t cheat, just plays to win as she lost in the U.S. Open final
By Arnie Leshin
Imagine if she was winning, imagine that it wouldn’t be a big deal to get her stirred up, probably not rant and rave, not bust a racket, notbring the house down with boos that rang throughout the packed Arthur Ashe tennis stadium at the U.S. Open championships in the New York borough of Queens Saturday afternoon.
But she was losing.
And that’s what you do when you are popular and on the top of heap in the world of tennis. Not unusual to protest a call, not unusual for you to slam your racket to the ground and break it. Not unusual to get fined.
But this is Serena Williams, now 37, married and with a one-year-old daughter. She sure knows how to express her opinion, when she’s losing that is.
Go back to the U.S. Open in 2009. It was the semis and she was losing, took it out on the lineswoman who called a foot fault on her. With her racket still in hand, she walked toward the official with unkind words, finger-pointing, and even pointing her racket in that direction.
After settling down and glaring at the Asian woman whenever she was on that side of the court, she won the match and was greeted in rapid order with a $10,000 fine from the United States Tennis Association. What’s money to a millionaire many times over?
But everybody has two sides, and Williams figures she is who she is and can get angry enough to take it out on someone else.
This time it was the chair umpire. After losing the first set, 6-3, to Naomi Osaka of Japan, she was down 3-2 in set two when the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, informed her that her coach had violated a rule by coaching from his seat, and it cost her a violation.
This didn’t sit well with her or the crowd. She kept shaking her head and saying whatever came out, than walked back to the court, and in the next game, smashed her racket by slamming it to the ground, even though her coach didn’t deny it. He said he was sending signals, but she didn’t see them.
Now she had two violations. One for harassingchair umpire for quite some time, and then beinghit with a third one that cost her a point and put her behind 4-2. She lost in two sets to the 20-year-old Osaka and the awards and speeches were not the same as usual. Even Osaka was depressed over what her idol was going through.
Some of the bitter things she addressed Ramos with, called him a thief, a sexist, told him he owed her an apology, and did everything but get in his face because she couldn’t reach him, and angrily told him she never cheats, never in her life.
Then again, what was she supposed to tell him?
At least Williams was not ejected. For instance, in baseball if you use profound language at an umpire and break your bat by smashing it, you are ejected. Bye, bye. Same with football, basketball, soccer, but not tennis because it would be against a player who would be ejected and leave the match with one player on the court.
I go back to the world of tennis way before Richard Williams took his family from Saginaw, Mich., because he was fed up with courts with pot holes and sometimes without nets. Serena was 4 years old than, her sister, Venus was 5, and the Williams’ also had three older children.
In California, Richard found a place to stay and a tennis court for his little girls to play on. Then came the move to Delray Beach, the tennis pro, Rick Macci, became the coach for Serena and Venus, and big daddy was dreaming of great things to come.
Players have walked off the court. In the pre-US Open at Forest Hills, N.Y., elite amateur Pancho Gonzalez, who had the fastest and most difficult serve to catch up with. Well, it was raining and Gonzalez kept telling the chair umpire to call play, and included other unkind words in English or Spanish, then when he became annoyed, he walked to his chair, picked up his gear, and left the courts.
He never returned, he forfeited the match and was fined. But he didn’t care, all he wanted was to get out of the rain.
Ilie Nastase was another one. When he objected to a call, he fired out some words in his native language to the court officials. And if things didn’t turn out in his favor, he pulled a Pancho, gathering his gear and leaving.
Then there was John (You got to be kidding) McEnroe, and he couldn’t care less about breakinga racket. And he usually stood at the umpire’s chair for quite some time, costing him points and fines. If he got angry enough, he threatened to leave the court until he was allowed to give the tournament director a piece of his mind.
There’s been more. Now comes Selena. Only her mom, Oracele (Benita) Prius, was there Saturday. Richard, who usually sat by himself, hasn’t been to matches in recent years. But if not of him, who knows what Serena and Venus would be doing now? Would they be ever be world-known, very wealthy, own mansions, and live the life of success?
And big daddy, who aside from hitting with the girls, never really played tennis. But he sure took care of his family.
Live and learn, Serena. Tennis has done a lot for you, making a racket shows your other side. Better to chill out and play with your racket instead of breaking it.