Here's what happened. Williams supposedly foot-faulted on her second serve to put Clijsters one point away from the match. Rather than challenging the call or sucking it up and moving on--as any respectable tennis player would--she threw a tantrum, and told the line judge she was going to "shove this ball down your f***ing throat." There are also reports of her uttering some 'motherf***ers' afterward.
She lost the point, and was penalized another, giving Clijsters the match. This was her second outburst of the match. After losing the first set, Williams smashed the frame of her racquet on the court. These outbursts would be unacceptable at any level of play, let alone in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the US Open.
But according to the Huffington Post, I'm only saying that because I'm afraid of Williams's urban roots, or something.
Now I want you to honestly ask yourself the following. If a lineswoman had called a questionable foot fault on Andy Roddick in the final game of his marathon Wimbledon battle royale against Roger Federer, near match point no less, what would the general reaction of most tennis fans -- particularly American tennis fans -- have been? Or if a linesman had called a foot fault on Melanie Oudin at a crucial point during her fairy tale like run at the Open (where I had the immense pleasure of seeing her play) what would the general reaction of the fans filling Arthur Ashe stadium have been? If the way we behaved during her match against Dementieva is any indication, then I'm guessing we would have seen an Attica-like riot.
Now that's a big if, for the sole reason that neither Roddick nor Oudin smashed their racquets on the court or shouted obscenities and threats at line judges.
Before the eye rolling begins, let me be clear. I am not arguing that Serena Williams -- with her countless titles and millions of dollars -- has somehow been a victim of racial bias. But I don't think anyone who is a real tennis fan can argue that she hasn't been a victim of some bias throughout her and her sister's, history-making careers, and Saturday night was one such moment.
No, Saturday night was a moment of extreme inappropriateness on Williams's part. Yes, it was a bad call. But that does not excuse her actions. And it was her actions that lost her the match, not the double fault.
Every tennis fan [is wrong] who isn't willing to honestly admit that Saturday's call never would have happened, nor been deemed acceptable for any other player under those circumstances.
Let me assure you that they would not have been deemed acceptable for any player who threatened a line judge. That is simply, well, unacceptable.
HuffPo complained that "Tennis remains, to this day, very much a country club-esque sport, and while the Williams scream a lot of things, country club is not one of them." Notwithstanding the author's insistence that there is no anti-Williams racial bias at play, this comment certainly smacks of racial connotations. Country clubs are, after all, the quintessential bastions of American WASPs. What do the Williams sisters scream? The ghetto?
Regardless of their successes tennis players are not permitted to disregard the rules and regulations of the game simply because they didn't learn to play in a country club, or they don't embody the typical tennis player in "pristine tennis whites," in HuffPo's words.
The game of tennis will not allow these immature outbursts simply to accomodate the eccentric (in the tennis world) demeanors and attitudes of the Williams sisters, or any other professionals for that matter, no matter the player's race, background, or upbringing.
Thank you to NewsBusters users balboa and nwahs for pointing out the specious use of the term "respectable" in describing the way in which Ms. Williams could or should have acted. I did not mean to imply that Serena is not a respectable tennis player, or that respectable tennis players do not lose their tempers. Ms. Williams's actions, not her character, were the topic of this post. She is a tremendous and very respectable athlete.