NEW YORK -- Here it is the men's semifinals and all anyone wants to talk about is the end of
Serena slams her racket after losing the first set, gets warned. Serena gets called for a foot fault on a second serve at 4-5, 15-30 in the second set, an unfortunate time but, to use the defending champion's favorite phrase, "It is what it is." If officials are supposed to overlook infractions based on the juncture of the match, we're on slippery terrain. (Aside: Doesn't the technology exist to challenge foot faults?)
Serena loses it and makes profane, vile and, worst of all, threatening remarks. True, she has a track record of getting the short end of some questionable calls, and this call was shaky. But threatening to stick "this [expletive] ball down your [expletive] throat" while berating a line judge is so far beyond the pale that it's not even worth discussing. This was, simply, indefensible. Serena cools down and seems to realize she hasn't crossed the line so much as she's bounded over it. She receives a point penalty and loses the match, the correct ruling. Game, set, match.
There was nothing much to dispute here. One e-mailer intimated that this was a racist conspiracy. Ridiculous. Others wondered if Serena should be suspended. Equally ridiculous. (Until players are suspended for blatant in-match coaching -- which corrupts competition -- it's hard to lobby for suspension for cursing and threats. Even in terms of bad behavior, we've seen worse -- such as
Still, the questions have come fast and furious, and we aim to please:
• Serena is good for tennis for many reasons, not least because she wins a lot of majors. But Serena lost a lot of fans Saturday, and armed her detractors. Say, "You can't be serious." Or even, "You can't [expletive] be serious." But to threaten to stick a ball down the official's throat, all the while approaching the woman with racket raised? That's just not acceptable.
What about the hubris to object to a foot fault so forcefully when you were looking up? What about the self-delusional press conference that lacked anything resembling an apology or accountability? What about the gall to claim pacifism when, only a few months ago,
• While it's true that Serena isn't the first player to curse or use vile language, there's a difference between that and threatening an official with violence, all the while brandishing your racket. Serena deserved what she got.
• The thought occurred to me, too:
• Fine her, don't suspend her.
• Interesting? Yes. Personalities that threaten violence? Not so much.
• Nice post. Thanks.
• Plenty of players have been stressed out without threatening violence in the most profane terms.
• Apples and oranges. I think a lot of the booing Saturday was in response to the unsatisfying ending. Also, inasmuch as the booing was aimed at Serena, the reasons were a lot more valid in this case.
• For 10 days, this was a stellar tournament. Then it imploded. Say this about our sport: It's never boring.