Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open on Sunday, in spectacular fashion. Not only did she show poorly against Australia’s Sam Stosur points-wise, 2-6, 4-6, but she also arguably showed poorly in attitude and sportsmanship.
On a pivotal break point during the final match of the tournament, when she was already down a set, she found what she thought was her “mojo” and hit a nearly unreturnable shot to Stosur’s weak backhand. Before the the ball fully made contact with her opponent’s racket, however, she let out one of her signature, “c’mons,” which caused the chair umpire to issue a hindrance violation against her. It cost her the crucial point (a rare but accurate decision) and the game. Williams wagged her racket and let fly a relatively benign but stinging tirade toward chair umpire Eva Asderaki (with whom she has a bitter history) that continued through the entire changeover.
“You’re a hater, you are ugly, ugly on the inside,” she told Asderaki. “Don’t even look at me … if you see me coming down the hallway, you better go the other way,” she continued.
The outburst caused the U.S. Open tournament referee, Brian Earley, to fine her $2K — a drop in the bucket for the multimillionaire champion, but it “does not rise to the level of a major offense under the Grand Slam Code of Conduct,” the official said.
It was a very familiar scenario for the passionate tennis veteran.
It was just two years ago in New York that Serena lost her cool during a critical couple of points in her match against Kim Clijsters. She received a foot-fault violation (an accurate but rare call), bringing Clijsters to match point. Already frustrated by being against the ropes, she “vented” on the lines woman who made the call, ultimately losing the point and the semifinal match due to her expletive-filled tirade. The backlash from tennis fans was scathing and racist. She was ultimately fined a record 95k for the incident and placed on two-years probation, with the next major offense resulting in suspension.
Time, in a sense, had healed those wounds, as she took a year off from the sport due to a life threatening illness and injury to her foot, causing her to miss the U.S. Open tournament in 2010. The time off put some much needed distance between her and the ugly blowout. After her health ordeal passed, she returned to tennis with what many deemed a more humble and focused approach to the sport. She even won over many previously hardened hearts by crying at the end of her first match back at 2011 Wimbledon.
Sunday’s regression to aggression, though, erased all that (including a 2.8 million dollar pay day )… a second fall from grace she and ultimately black people can’t really afford.
As an example of the Serena Williams (translation: blacks in general) climate among largely white tennis fans, here are some message board comments:
“Serena should be banned from the U.S. open for her behavior. This has happened twice now and if she can’t play at that level without losing her temper, she shouldn’t be playing in our major.”
“Serena’s behavior is unforgivable. She is an awful representatives for this country. Rude to the core and a savage.”
“Congratulations to Sam Storur. In sports, it is so rewarding when good technique and strategy beat brute force and intimidation. This is the second time the goon Serena Williams threatens an umpire or lines person. No matter how local or awarded a sportsman/women is, this kind of behavior should not be tolerated anymore without an exemplary reprimand.”
“If she had to apologize, that would make her appear weak & thugs can’t possibly look weak. She’s got to appear bad to the bone. Otherwise she might have to act like a real human & not pitch temper tantrums like the spoiled brat that she’s been showing herself to be.”
Racists are lying in wait for a reason to say, “I told you so,” when it comes to blacks. Serena’s outburst awakened them, as demonstrated by the sample of comments. Honestly, I was cringing and wishing for her to pull up, because I knew the impact it would have. But she kept going — with resolve not to apologize whether right or wrong.
On Sunday, whether justified or not, Serena Williams put another ding in how blacks are viewed by other races — especially since the clip is now making national and local news. You may feel that it doesn’t matter, but I think it does because it translates to everything from jobs to racial profiling. I wouldn’t quite call the incident a setback for blacks, but it certainly added to the gradient of the hill we’re still climbing.
That aside, her only reprieve now that she set her image re-building campaign back light years is to go down in history as the winningest, wealthiest angry black woman tennis history. Is that enough?