Serena Williams will have a chance to make it four U.S. Open championships next year after her verbal abuse of an umpire in a women’s final loss to Samantha Stosur was ruled a minor offense.
She will lose $2,000 in her latest fine for on-court behavior.
Williams, who called chair umpire Eva Asderaki “a hater and unattractive inside” after being penalized a point for shouting during play two days ago, didn’t violate her probation from a 2009 offense when she berated an umpire during her semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters, tournament referee Brian Earley said in a statement yesterday. Any major offense at a Grand Slam through this year’s U.S. Open would have led to a future ban from the tournament in New York.
The fine was tied for the third-largest at this year’s U.S. Open. Doubles player Mike Bryan of the U.S. was given a $10,000 unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for an undisclosed off-court episode following a first-round defeat. Philip Petzschner of Germany was fined $3,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct, while Anastasija Sevastova, Anastasia Pavyluchenkova and Ernest Gulbis each received $2,000 fines for improper coaching.
Williams’s fine “is consistent with similar offenses at Grand Slam events,” the U.S. Tennis Association said in the statement. “After independently reviewing the incident which served as the basis for the code violation, and taking into account the level of fine imposed by the U.S. Open referee, the Grand Slam Committee director has determined that Ms. Williams’s conduct, while verbally abusive, does not rise to the level of a major offense under the Grand Slam Code of Conduct.”
The announcement came two hours prior to the men’s final at the National Tennis Center, where top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia won in four sets over defending champion Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed from Spain.
Down a set in the Sept. 11 match she eventually lost 6-2, 6-3 to Stosur of Australia, Williams, a 29-year-old American, angrily reacted to Asderaki when she was given a game-ending one-point penalty upon shouting “Come on!” after hitting what she thought was a clean winner.
Stosur, the No. 9 seed, managed to get her racket on the ball, leading the umpire to issue a code violation. Williams criticized the umpire and continued to berate her during a 90-second changeover two games later.
Williams, the U.S. Open champion in 1999, 2002 and 2008, said she didn’t intentionally yell out during play to interfere with Stosur and that she didn’t know the rule that cost her a point. Marion Bartoli of France was similarly penalized against American Christina McHale in the tournament, also after yelling “Come on!” during play.
“I thought it was a clear winner,” Williams said at a news conference. “I thought it was like the hat-drop rule, where if you drop a hat you kind of replay the point.”
After being told of the one-point violation, Williams scolded Asderaki immediately and throughout the side change two games later. The comments were picked up by microphones for CBS Corp., which televised the match, and replayed several times.
“Aren’t you the one who screwed me over last time here?” Williams asked Asderaki. “I promise you, that’s not cool. That’s totally not cool.”
Williams won the next two games and took a 2-1 advantage into the side change, when she spent most of the time talking to Asderaki, with comments such as, “Don’t even look at me.”
“If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way, because you’re totally out of control,” Williams said as she sat in her chair next to Asderaki’s. “You’re a hater and unattractive inside.”
Williams said afterward at the news conference that she had no recollection of the comments and no idea what she was referring to in bringing up an earlier episode with Asderaki. Asked again if she confused the umpire with the one who penalized her against Clijsters, Williams said, “I don’t know. Maybe. Probably for sure.”
Williams didn’t shake hands with the umpire or look at Asderaki as she left the court after the 73-minute match, which gave Stosur her first Grand Slam title.
Williams was one game from losing her 2009 match with Clijsters when she received a foot-fault call on her second serve at 15-30. She turned and verbally abused the lineswoman who made the call and was given her second code violation of the match, after smashing her racket at the end of the first set. The second penalty cost Williams a point and the match.
Two days later, Williams apologized to the lineswoman, Clijsters, the USTA and tennis fans for what she called “my inappropriate outburst.”
Williams, who missed the 2010 tournament due to injury, was fined $175,000 in November 2009 for verbal abuse of the lineswoman. The fine, handed down by a committee comprised of officials from all four Grand Slams, included a provision that it would be reduced to $82,500 if Williams didn’t have any more major offenses through 2011. If Williams had been found guilty of a major offense in any Grand Slam, she would have been suspended from the U.S. Open, held annually in New York, the committee said.