Sunday, September 13, 2009

U.S. Open: Kiss your mother with that mouth?

Watching the quite bizarre ending to the Serena Williams/Kim Clijsters match, I remembered Chris Rock's routine about O.J. Simpson where he says, "I'm not saying he should have killed her, but I understand."
I'm not saying Serena should have threatened to shove a tennis ball down someone's throat, but I understand. OK, line lady, you don't call a foot fault late in the second set in the semifinal of the U.S. Open unless it's obvious. No one in that stadium put down a hundred bucks for Ashe Stadium tickets to see the linespeople. Let the players play. Foot fault. From one of the best servers in women's tennis. Really?
Now, the aftermath: Dear lord, Serena. Now people actually did pay to see you play, not to go postal. I can understand being irritated enough to walk over and tell that woman, "Are you blind?" It's another thing entirely to say you'd kill her if you could. She goes back three times! Shut the hell up and get back to the match. And you have got to love Serena's denial about what she said at the end: "I never said I'd kill her!" No. You just said you'd shove a (censored) ball down her (censored) throat. Big difference. Right. It's like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." "I'm not going to kill you, Wendy. I'm just going to bash your head in."
I also have to add this. Why do players get penalized for smashing racquets? It's a racquet! AAAnd, it's the player's racquet. Who's getting hurt by that? That's just one of the silliest rules in tennis.
Also silly (but a good silly) is the fact that Kim Clijsters takes about two years off from tennis, comes back about a month and a half ago and now is poised to win the U.S. Open. Now, she's shown she can still be good ol' streaky Kimmy (her scoreline against Venus: 6-0, 0-6, 6-4.) but she played a strong and smart match against Serena and would have probably won it even if Serena didn't get all ethnic out there. Please, please, please, Caroline Wosniacki, please give us a good woman's final on Sunday night.


yogahz said...

That was weird.

In the league I see tons of foot faulters, but these are people with both feet in the court while hitting their serve. At our level, since this doesn't really give them an advantage we usually let it slide. If the player is (at least) trying to serve and volley then it's worth a warning and then a call for an umpire.

But a ff is like a fault serve in an officiated match. The umpire can be lenient about time between points and number of ball bounces, even about racquet smashes and after-point swipes at the ball in anger...but a ff is an actual violation that *has* to be called regardless of where they are and how close the match. In that respect, the line judge is the advocate of the player on the other side that can't see it happening.

This was a tiny foot fault for sure, but I have to feel for the judge who was doing her job.

(Racquet smashes can damage the court - our indoor courts have some dings from the better smashes from the junior players.)

OCDave said...

The whole thing should have never happened. Serena was right to be incensed at the line person - and the line person acted like a child in a school yard - digging in her heels and running to mommy the referee to protect her. Then the officials came out and closed ranks behind the lines person - look at the video - there they are clustered around the lines person who stands nodding her head - milking the scene for as much sympathy as she can get - and those officials all standing apart from Serena - judging her. That lines person should have been IMMEDIATELY removed from the court, a timeout should have been called - and the emotional scene never have been allowed to be played out in front of the fans.

Once removed from the court, the situation should have been allowed to cool and calm down and the call reviewed. Even if Serena was docked a point, it should have been done off court and announced afterward.

The officials of the U.S. Open should be ashamed of themselves for PUBLICALLY ganging up on a emotionally vulnerable player and backing up the little worm of a lines person whose call is NOT backed up by any available tape of the so-called fault.

It's easy to get down on Serena because of her language and demeanor - and the comments I've seen read as if that's all there was to the incident. Players who have been putting a tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy for an extended period of time may not act as 'appropriately' as we would think they should in this situation. All the more reason to create the space for them to calm down off the court - not have to face a judging committee so sympathetic to one of their own in front of everyone.

Naf said...

Yogahz, I still can't say for sure if that was a foot fault. I saw it from a few different angles. Not that it matters. There's really no need to flip out the way she did. What did she think was going to happen after that? It's surprising coming from Serena because she's usually so mentally tough. Anyway, I view calling foot faults the way I view line calls. If you're not sure, it's good. Could that woman have been that certain with such a tight call? I have an interesting foot fault story from Princeton, which I still have to post about.
Hi, OCDave -- gotta disagree with you on this. Her reaction did not fit the situation. The linesperson and U.S. Open staff were painted into a corner by Serena. You can't let that slide. It's too bad for Clijsters the most, because you want to be able really finish that match out.

OCDave said...

Hi Naf,

I think the U.S. Open staff painted themselves into a corner. By closing ranks and taking sides they created a confrontational situation in which they were forced to penalize Serena - in the open with the boos and jeers of the crowd as a background. In that setting and situation, no just outcome can come out. As I posted, they should have adjourned to an off court and quiet location, and made their decision there.

The call was bogus - available video cannot detect a ff - how could the official have been so sure? Probably she wasn't, but a combination of Serena's reaction and the other officials supporting her made her dig in her heels. The officials made Serena the issue rather than the bogus ff call.

They could have handled it differently. They're in charge. They host an event with very highly-charged personalities in a high stress event - and you want Serena to act 'normal' or appropriate? It's more appropriate for Tournament staff to properly mediate between a highly charged personality and tournament/tennis rules.

This is why the Player Challenge system is so valuable. Instead of demonizing the players for getting upset about bad or dubious calls and letting a confrontational situation get out of hand, a means was developed to defuse the situation - to give the players the feeling they had a chance for review. Serena had no chance. They closed ranks behind their precious official and became disapproving and punishing parents - they ganged up on her and defaulted the remaining points of the match - all in front of the fans.

Bad Bad way to handle the situation

van said...

Naf, what's up? I was just talking with someone yesterday that was making the same point that Yogahz did in saying that you have to call it if it is a violation. But I agree with you: You have to let the players play at that stage of the match.

I've been hearing some scuttlebutt on the Web that there might be talk of a Slam suspension for Serena. In no way, shape or form should that happen.

Naf said...

Yo, Van! I heard someone say that if Serena did what she did on the street, she'd leave in handcuffs. I don't know how true that is, but she deserves more than just a $10,000 fine. She's lucky she got to play the doubles, and if it weren't for all those people (all 10 of them, it looked like) who paid to see that match, that would have made a good lesson for her.
The Slam suspension will never happen because the WTA needs Serena too much to bench her for a whole year. Love her or hate her, it'll never happen. I say you take her prize money and maybe bench her for the year-ending tournament. Or maybe take her ranking points from this tournament?

OCDave said...

"Yo, Van! I heard someone say that if Serena did what she did on the street, she'd leave in handcuffs. I don't know how true that is, but she deserves more than just a $10,000 fine."

Yo Naf,

If the quote above is really by you, you're an idiot. Maybe you should acquaint yourself with the facts before making a fool of yourself. But even at her worst, Serena has a lot more class then a moron like yourself.

Naf said...

Hi, OCDave. I ignored your previous comment because it was clear that you are not a man/woman of reason and instead of openly mocking you, I thought I'd give you a break because you were new here. Well, Dave, you've lost your pass and I hope you're happy.
First, yes, I really heard someone say that. Believe it was Mary Carillo. I can also tell you that as a newspaper editor, I have read numerous police reports of people being charged for harassment or making threats. That is a legitimate charge and a crime. I've never read a report of someone threatening to shove a tennis ball down someone's throat, so I can't say specifically whether that would lead to a charge of harassment or something like that, but I would guess it falls in the category. I'll check with our local police chiefs.
Second, I'm going to also disagree with the comment that Serena has more class than I do. Unless by "class," you mean the ability to threaten to shove a tennis ball down someone's throat because of a foot fault. I am well acquainted with the fact that I have never done that.
I would take exception to being called a moron on my own blog if I thought your high opinion of me was something worth seeking. I'm going to keep your comments up so everyone can see that there is actually someone who thinks it's all right to say the things Serena said (and don't forget – there are parts we haven't yet heard) without having to take any responsibility for it. I get that you're obviously a Serena fan, and that's great. But what she did was wrong and unacceptable, regardless of the iffy call. If you want to see how to properly handle a dispute on court, watch Serena's sister Venus, or Roger Federer (minus the s-bombs on Monday). You take it to the umpire and then you move on.
I'll say it again, OC (obsessive compulsive?) that Serena's own actions left no choice in the matter. Your argument that tournament officials should have shaded toward her is baseless. I'd like to know how you, as the tournament director would have handled it (besides giving Serena a gold medal for her appropriate conduct and bitch-slapping the line judge). I can't wait to hear this one, and all the classy names you'll come up with for me next.

OCDave said...

Yo Naf

Read your post again. First you say “ I heard someone say … “ Then you post “I don’t know how true that is” If you don’t know how true it is, how informed is your comment?

That’s what set me off – you’re willing to judge someone on a comment about them you don’t even know if it is true. I heard what Mary Carillo said – almost all the network commentators there made sure they climbed on the ‘Dump on Serena’ wagon – I think they were afraid if they said what they really thought the network they worked for would appear to be critical of the U.S. Open. Before they shut him up, John Mcnroe said it correctly “It should never have happened”. It was a stupid and bad call and the Tournament management dumped on Serena. In a previous post I outlined what I thought should have happened – the matter should have adjourned off court to be discussed and resolved. Instead, they carried on a judgmental scene in front of the fans – with the poor agrieved linesperson playing up to management staff and with the crowd’s hoots and jeers in the backgeround. As soon as Serene started to go off on the linesperson, management should have taken all parties off the court. I’ve watched enough tennis to see how players can go off on Tournament Officials – I remember McEnroe in his heyday – and perhaps you’ve forgotten when Agassi got so ticked at an official he hit a ball at him. Was that more serious than a verbal threat? These players are high octane personalities – they don’t always conform to your sense of appropriateness when they protest a bad call.. Your comment reads as petty and vindictive – as if Serena has upset your prim perfect little world by shouting a threat at someone. Poor Naf, his little would is shaken by open naked anger – quick! Slap the handcuffs on! Off to jail with her!

And, if you’re a newspaper editor, wouldn’t you want to be commenting on material more accurately sourced than “I don’t know how true it is …”

Naf said...

Clear the court, huh? Because a tennis player is throwing a temper tantrum? Oh-KAY, then. You can go on and on if you want, but there's just no talking to you. My comments made perfect sense, and just because I'm a newspaper editor doesn't mean I know everything. But thank you for thinking that of me! I'm going to go ahead and still keep your ridiculous comments up, though, because there are days when I just need a laugh.

OCDave said...

Yo Naf

You don't want to consider my observations, so you just trash what I write and - heck you can't even get straight what I wrote and respond intelligently

Obviously the sport to you it just a player throwing a temper tantrum. Great insight

I can understand the sorry state of journalism after this exchange with you

yogahz said...

The linesperson was called over to the umpires chair by the umpire. She was not "playing up to management staff", she was there to answer the questions of what had happened so appropriate action could be taken.

I feel the most for her, she did her job and was publicly humiliated and scorned. She hasn't been able to cash in on the publicity to sell her book or get appearances on talk shows. Maybe the USTA wouldn't allow that anyway, but the story of how this has affected her is the one that's missing here.

Anyway, Serena apologized and I'd like to move on. She's lost some respect but I'm willing to say she's human, she apologized, good for her.