Saturday, September 12, 2009

US.13- The F-Bombs Heard 'round the World

After as crazy a U.S. Open as we've ever seen, did we really expect anything different?


After waiting all day for matches to begin (following Fernando Gonzalez's brief flameout versus Rafael Nadal to start the proceedings around noon in NYC), and truthfully not really expecting them to be played at all, we ended up getting something very memorable before the night was through. Not necessarily for all the right reasons, though.

Serena Williams never really got into her semifinal match with Kim Clijsters tonight. Or maybe the Belgian never really ALLOWED her to. While Clijsters was bedeviling the defending champ with handcuffing deep shots and good defense, Williams' play was spotty at best. It was the Serena we usually see BETWEEN the slams, not AT one. Her second serve was atrocious. Her groundstokes unrealiable. Her footwork sloppy.

Her anger was in smashing form, though. She crushed a racket after netting a backhand and dropping the 1st set 6-4, earning a code violation that would end up setting the stage for a final point heard round the world before the evening was through.

Two games into the 2nd set, consecutive Williams double-faults gave back the break she'd earned in the first game. After having had her serve broken three times in her first five matches at Flushing Meadows, this was her third break of serve in this single match. Clijsters and Williams traded breaks again for 3-3, then Serena briefly seemed as if she might awaken and power her way to another slam final. Down two break points at 3-4, she hit her way out of a hole and held serve with a three-ace game. Clijsters held serve for 6-5, setting the table for a moment that Williams likely be trying to live down for quite awhile, even though it was a situation that should never has occurred in the first place.

At 15/30, Williams was called for a foot-fault on a second serve that immediately gave Clijsters two match points. A simmering Serena then turned and made a beeline for the lineswoman who'd made the call, gesturing toward her with her racket, cursing at her and essentially telling her what she might do with the tennis ball in her hand if she made a call like that again. Thing is, the call should never have been made, not at that point in the match, and especially since replays made the call seem questionable at best. But Serena should have been better able to control herself, too.

The lineswoman ran over and tattled... err, I mean, as required, told the umpire what was said. Then, a few moments later, Williams went at her again just as the tournament referee walked onto the court. After some heated discussion and exasperation, Williams was correctly-by-rule given a second code violation for verbal abuse/unsportsmanlike conduct, the penalty for which is a point. Being that it was match point for Clijsters due to the foot-fault call, the match ended without Serena hitting another ball. She walked to the back court and shook a somewhat bewildered Clijsters' hand, and this Open had yet another bizarre moment to hang its racket bag on -- the defending champion being defeated by an unranked wild card, back-after-two-years-off, mother and former champion who actually hasn't lost a match at this tournament since the 2003 final.

Put that one in your pipe and smoke it. Just make sure a linesperson doesn't hear you and report it to the authorities.

Thing is, this match was probably only moments away from ending anyway. Clijsters far outplayed the sloppy Williams all night. But, of course, with Serena there is always that POSSIBILITY that one ace gets her on a roll that her opponent can't stop. It might have happened again. But probably not. But maybe it could have. But it wasn't likely. Well, you get the idea.

Ironically, this whole incident occurred after two days-worth of CBS rain delay replays from past Opens that often focused on on-court antics far, far worse than Serena's tonight. Maybe Serena caught a bit of it all and couldn't help herself in the heat of the moment? The result of it all ended up causing the immediate emotional response to what Williams did to be a certain "what's the big deal?" reaction. The last few days, after watching Ilie Nastase from a night match thirty years ago, and then the time-honored Jimmy Connors (smile-inducing but still) nasty tirades at the umpire during his win over Aaron Krickstein in 1991, what Serena did seemed like small potatoes, and the "I'm gonna tell" actions by a lineswoman with "virgin ears" a vast overreaction.

Those thoughts are already starting to drift away, but it was still a situation that never needed to occur at all. Not if a linesperson was aware of the importance of a moment that shouldn't be interfered with by a ticky-tack call, and then not if a player had been able to control her emotions in the heat of the moment. One didn't, then the other couldn't. The rest is Open history.

It's a pity.

So, Clijsters won 6-4/7-5 to become just the second unranked player in the Open era (Evonne Goolagong at the '77 Australian, after also returning after having had a baby) to reach a slam final. But until tomorrow night's final all the talk will be about Williams' noisy exit.

Even in ugly defeat, Serena takes centerstage. At least for tonight. But there's always tomorrow.

=DAY 13 NOTES= for the other semifinal. Well, Caroline Wozniacki defeated Yanina Wickmayer 6-3/6-3 to reach her first career slam final. Congratulations to her. Who knows what really happened there, though, considering CBS didn't even deign to show a single solitary second of the match. Not even match point. Not even after going into what seemed like ten commercials breaks after the Williams/Clijsters match saying they'd return and talk about and/or look at the "other semifinal." All we ever got was Dick Enberg saying the score right before the network passed things off to the local news something like 40-45 minutes after the first match ended.

Thanks, CBS. I wonder if they'll block out half the screen when C-Woz plays Clijsters tomorrow night? Oh, that's right. CBS won't be airing that match, since it's getting shuffled over to ESPN2. And people wonder why no one in America knows any of the young non-American players. I mean, if a player with as much charm and crossover appeal as Wozniacki gets treated like a second class tennis citizen on U.S. television, what hope is there for the rest of the masses? juniors, it was an all-Hordette vs. Brit pair of Girls semifinals. Russian Yana Buchina defeated Laura Robson (7-5 in the 3rd) to reach the Girls final, where she'll meet another Brit, #11 Heather Watson, who defeated #9 Daria Gavrilova. American Chase Buchanan will face Aussie Bernard Tomic in the Boys final.

...and, finally, I hope someone manages to get word to Enberg by the time CBS goes on air tomorrow with the men's semifinals that Williams wasn't, technically, "defaulted from the match" (though, truthfully, a case could have been made that she COULD have been defaulted for her verbal abuse of the lineswoman). I realize Enberg isn't as sharp as he maybe once was, but after his fellow commentators and the tournament referee noted on air that Serena was given a point penalty, which since it occurred on match point meant the match was over (otherwise, they would have played on), someone might have wanted to point it out to Dick by the time he said it the second and third time.

#9 Caroline Wozniacki/DEN vs. (WC) Kim Clijsters/BEL

#1 Roger Federer/SUI vs. #4 Novak Djokovic/SRB
#3 Rafael Nadal/ESP vs. #6 Juan Martin Del Potro/ARG

#1 Black/Huber (ZIM/USA) or #3 Stosur/Stubbs (AUS/AUS) vs. #4 Williams/Williams (USA/USA)

#4 Dlouhy/Paes (CZE/IND) vs. #3 Bhupathi/Knowles (IND/BAH)

Gullickson/Parrott (USA/USA) def. #2 Black/Paes (ZIM/IND) 6-2/6-4

Yana Buchina/RUS vs. #11 Heather Watson/GBR

Chase Buchanan/USA vs. #3 Bernard Tomic/AUS

#3 E.Bogdan/Lertcheewakarn (ROU/THA) vs. Solovieva/Zanevska (RUS/UKR)

Obry/Puget (FRA/FRA) vs. Fucsovics/Hsieh (HUN/TPE)

=US Open=
2004 Shinobu Asagoe, JPN
2005 Elena Dementieva, RUS
2006 Tatiana Golovin, FRA
2007 Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
2008 Jelena Jankovic, SRB
2009 Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
AO: Vera Zvonareva, RUS
RG: Samantha Stosur, AUS
WI: Elena Dementieva, RUS
US: Caroline Wozniacki, DEN

NR - Evonne Goolagong, 1977 Australian Open (W)
#111 - Chris O'Neil, 1978 Australian Open (W)
#81 - Serena Williams, 2007 Australian Open (W)
#78 - Betsy Nagelsen, 1978 Australian Open (RU)
#68 - Barbara Jordan, 1979 Australian Open (W)
#66 - Venus Williams, 1997 US Open (RU)

KIM CLIJSTERS (twice - 2002 WTA Chsp. & 2009 US Open)
Lindsay Davenport
Steffi Graf
Justine Henin
Martina Hingis
Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

3...USA (2-S.Williams/1-V.Williams)
3...RUS (2-Safina/1-Kuznetsova)

14...Serena Williams (11-3)
14...Venus Williams (7-7)
4...Maria Sharapova (3-1)
4...Svetlana Kuznetsova (2-2)

13...Serena Williams (10-3)
13...Venus Williams (7-6)
11...Justine Henin (7-4)
5...Lindsay Davenport (1-4)

TOP EARLY ROUND (1r-2r): Serena Williams/USA
TOP MIDDLE-ROUND (3r-QF): Serena Williams/USA
TOP QUALIFYING MATCH: Q3: Eva Hrdinova/CZE def. Laura Robson/GBR 7-6/4-6/7-6
TOP EARLY RD. MATCH (1r-2r): 2nd Rd.- Melanie Oudin/USA d. #4 Elena Dementieva/RUS 5-7/6-4/6-3
TOP MIDDLE-RD. MATCH (3r-QF): 3rd Rd.- Melanie Oudin/USA d. #29 Maria Sharapova 3-6/6-4/7-5
FIRST SEED OUT: #25 Kaia Kanepi/EST (1st Rd.-Chang/TPE)
FIRST WIN: (WC) Vania King/USA (def. Anastasiya Yakimova/BLR)
UPSET QUEENS: The Americans
LAST QUALIFIER STANDING: Anastasia Rodionova/AUS (3rd Rd.)
IT GIRL: Melanie Oudin/USA
MS. OPPORTUNITY: Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
CRASH & BURN: #4 Elena Dementieva/RUS (2nd Rd.-Oudin/USA
ZOMBIE QUEEN: #10 Flavia Pennetta/ITA (saved 6 MP in 4th Rd. vs. Zvonareva/RUS)
DOUBLES STAR Carly Gullickson/USA

All for Day 13. More tomorrow.


Blogger Eric said...

i totally agree with you that this call should never have been made at such an important moment in the match...i even made a comment about it to a in basketball...the last 2 minutes (sometimes even 5 minutes) a lot of things get overlooked b/c ppl are in the zone

but i think what dick enberg (or cliff drysdale...always get the 2 mixed up) said was that the match official asked the linesperson to report what serena said to her. of course, she didn't have to say anything, but it was the official that initiated it.

ugh ugh ugh...

but seriously, if the tennis establishment (all the commentators) doesn't like it so much, they shouldn't reward her behavior by playing the footage over and over and over again. they thrive when the williamses make drama. they should be thanking serena...i mean, have you seen twitter? everyone is talking about it

Sun Sep 13, 02:10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

did you read her presser afterwards?

she had so much class there...ugh, serena why did you have to lose ur temper?!??

i hope her 2010 is like justine's it will wipe away the bad feelings from this like 2007 wiped away justine's 06 australian open hiccup

and lol, todd, i think u'll appreciate what i said to my friend (who's a huge clijsters fan...ugh, i know)

"don't forget that clijsters was done with tennis in 2006. she left the sport poo pooing everything that made her famous like a spoiled brat. instead, like everyone else with probs outside of tennis, they play on poorly and take a beating from the press (i.e. williamses 04-07, jankovic 09, sharapova 07, nadal 09, federer 08, etc.). why is she only one that get lauded for abandoning the sport and then coming back? I don't understand why if she was done with tennis, why i can't be done with her"

and wtheck, ppl get upset all the time in other sports...but it's such a huge deal in i think it makes it more interesting if anything. seriously, matches have been dragging on lately...especially with everyone taking so much time btwn points

we were all robbed today. we didn't get to see serena's fight...we didn't get to see what clijsters could come up with to close her out...especially after waiting for 3 days...ugh

Sun Sep 13, 02:18:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, apparently, they're supposed to report what players say. At this point, I haven't seen anything that makes it clear whether or not the lineswoman or umpire initiated the discussion.

I guess it doesn't really matter. It's just the image of the lineswoman running to the chair the second Williams turned her back that looks a bit bad. But, you know, you can't tell an official that "if (you) could, (you'd) stuff this ball down your throat and kill you."

Oh, but imagine if players COULD. How wild would that be? :)

Sun Sep 13, 02:21:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Now, now. I'm trying to have a "clean slate" with Clijsters in KC II, remember. And I AM trying very hard, though I have to bite my lip all the time during her matches when the "isn't she great?" stuff starts being shellacked on a bit thick. :)

Please come back, Justine, so I can drop the pretense. :D

Yeah, the thing with tennis outbursts is that, while players get criticized for things they do, those are the players who become the most well-known and, many times, beloved. Everybody was so against McEnroe's antics (and Connors, too, though he sort of elevated the art to something near "camp" by the time he was finished... which Mac has also done post-retirement), but now they're played for laughs.

Cool-as-a-cucumber is great... if you're Federer or Borg, or someone like that. Then it becomes "graceful" behavior. With other players, it'd be called "boring."

Sun Sep 13, 02:33:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Vicki said...

What's with all this crap that the call shouldn't have been made? The linesperson had a job to do and they did it. No one has the right to pile that kind of abuse on another person.

Serena should blame one person and one person only for what happened. HERSELF. End of story. Well it won't be as the media will keep it up for a while yet.

Hopefully if this ever happens again it won't stop another lineperson doing the same thing this linesperson did.

Sun Sep 13, 04:06:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

yeah, i'm not disputing the fact that the linesperson did her job. and i'm not disputing that serena shouldn't have lost her temper. i just think that if it wasn't a blatant rule violation, the call shouldn't have been made at such a crucial time and i mean that for if it happened to clijsters at the crucial point, i don't think that call should have been made.

these rules are at the discretion of the lines people. in high intensity, thick tension moments, people are battling so many things...and it wasn't like it was an obvious foot fault either. i haven't seen any replay that shows that she made the footfault...if it was blatant (like more than just a smidge on the line), i don't think anyone would have an issue with the call...thus, like todd says, it becomes a very ticky tack call...

and it's something that other sports take into account as well. in basketball and football, in the last few minutes of the game, they overlook some of the more minor grievances because they know that everyone is so dialed in

sidenote: serena didn't blame the linesperson at all. she said that she didn't hold it against the linesperson for doing her job. while she hasn't quite said that it's all her fault (lol, i'll be surprised if she ever does), i feel like we're seeing human you remember her after wimbledon 08, losing to her sister? lol, i don't think i've ever winced so much

i'm still so impressed by what she said in her presser yesterday though. like to be able to admit those things so close to the situation. and to look at it as a learning's so mature of her and something that i don't think i could have done...and she is still a young adult -- i hope ppl are more forgiving of me as i continue to make mistakes as i grow up

Sun Sep 13, 01:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

There is indeed a rule that a lineswoman or -man is obligated to report abuse to the chair umpire.

And if the lineswoman saw a foot fault, it is her job to call a foot fault, regardless of when it is committed. Whether there actually was a foot fault committed is another matter entirely. I like to think that no official ever calls a fault of which she is not certain.

Serena's press conference provided even more theatre. What next? I don't even want to speculate...

Sun Sep 13, 03:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

"I'm kind of eager to go home and live the family life again."


Mon Sep 14, 12:48:00 AM EDT  

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