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Serena Out After US Open Threat: 'I Didn't Say I Would Kill You'


An unfortunate end to the Williams-Clijsters match last night.

Following a foot fault at match point in the semifinal she was losing to Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams approached the linesperson who had called the fault aggressively, unleashing a tirade of f-words. The linesperson told the umpire she felt threatened by what Williams had said, and a point penalty was issued. Williams thus lost the match (6-4, 7-5), and Clijsters heads to the final.

What did Serena say exactly? In an argument with officials, she was heard denying she had threatened the linesperson: "I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious?"

According to witness reports that are circulating, Williams said to the linesperson: "You don't know me. You better be right. I swear to God I’m fucking taking this ball and shoving it down your fucking throat…”

Later, in a press conference, Williams said, "I don't know why she felt threatened."

NYT: "In a matter of confusing minutes, Williams turned what had been a scintillating women’s match into an ugly and improbable spectacle that gave Clijsters, an unseeded wild-card entry making a joyful return to Grand Slam tennis, a 6-4, 7-5 victory she could not even celebrate."

NYDN: "Really, it was all just very sad, lamentable. First there was the absurd foot-fault call by an overzealous lineswoman on an extremely critical point in that last game, on Williams' second serve at 15-30. Replays indicated it wasn't a foot fault at all. Then Williams was storming around, getting nailed with a second warning and losing match point, for threatening the lineswoman over the call."

Watch the incident, and Williams' post-match press conference, AFTER THE JUMP...

Press conference:

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  1. She yelled abuse at the umpire 3 separate times in that video. Earlier in the match, she smashed her racquet against the ground in anger. You can't threaten the umpires - it's as simple as that - it doesn't matter how upset you are. It was good of her to shake Clijster's hand after the match, though, to reassure her it's not her fault.

    Posted by: Donovan | Sep 13, 2009 11:45:01 AM

  2. I'm really sorry for both of them. Clijsters couldnt celebrate properly her victory, and Serena had to deal with that really uncomfortable situation. The foot fault call was completely unnecessary.
    Although inexcusable, I can totally understand Serena's reaction, and it's not the first time she's had major problems with unfair umpires or line judges.

    Posted by: tobal | Sep 13, 2009 12:05:27 PM

  3. The NYDN report gets it wrong -- it is not clear on the replay whether or not Serena footfaulted. The linesperson was in the best position to see the footfault, and even Serena admitted in her post-match interview that she probably did commit the footfault. In any case, Serena obviously lost her cool, and there is no question the point penalty was justified. But at least Serena salvaged a little bit of dignity by being very gracious to Kim Clijsters after the match.

    Posted by: Dan | Sep 13, 2009 12:08:50 PM

  4. he foot-fault was not on match point. Serena was serving at 15-30. She faulted on her first service attempt. Then on her second, she was called for the FF. According to replays, it is unclear; but even Serena admitted that she probably did afterwards. Thus, the score was 15-40. Then instead of letting it go or alternatively, appealing to the chair umpire, she berated the official and did in fact threaten her. She was trashy and her behavior really tarnished the sport and her image. Because of the tirade, she was assessed a violation for unsportsmanlike conduct (her second violation of the match). Therefore, that second violation cost her a point, and at 15-40, the game and the match. However, what is lost in this whole scene was the fact that Kim C was beating Serena and playing excellent tennis. It's a shame she didn't get to celebrate properly. Shame on Serena!

    Posted by: LD | Sep 13, 2009 12:42:55 PM

  5. Sorry,NYDN, but The Tennis Channel aired the alleged football from an angle not available to CBS as the match aired live. CBS' camera angle made it impossible to see the foot fault, but the call was clearly correct in the footage made available by The Tennis Channel, with Martina Navratilova confirming that Williams had foot faulted.

    Most every sport establishes boundary lines that are enforced. There is a good reason why a player is not allowed to set a foot on or inside (on the ground) that line prior to the ball leaving the strings of the server's racquet. This is a rule of the game, no less important than striking a ball that lands beyond those boundary lines on a point. To say that the call was ludicrous, or to be especially aghast that an official would make the call so close to match point is absurd. Should a player be allowed to step a foot inside the baseline to serve, simply because it is so near match point? Of course not.

    I'm a big William's fan, and I franly believe that niether sister have been completely their due because because they don't look like Chris Evert of Tracy Austin. A Melanie Oudain made her way through to the quarter finals, the media constantly drew comparisons to Chris (on of my all time favorite players) and Tracy (whom I sparred with a number of times when she was at her height and we were in the juniors). Even Pam Shriver was cited as an example to draw upon, but neither Willams sister were ever referred to, though they both made strong runs as teens in the US Open (Serena winning), despite the fact that they were the last US female players to actually enjoy the success that Melanie was experiencing at this Open. The Williams sisters are the only American players (if you discount Mary Pierce) to bother to learn to speak French so that they could address the hosting crowd at the French Open in their own language. Yes, Serena has been cocky, but then so was Hingis. These women who should have had a far greater number of endorsements and love from the US crowds than they've ever been given.

    Having said that, Serena was entirely in the wrong last night, including her refusal to apologize for her outburst at the line judge--also against the rules of play, from the time that her foot slid against the baseline on, she was just wrong.

    Posted by: MackMike | Sep 13, 2009 12:51:15 PM

  6. The Williams sisters have been victims of some really bad calls in the past. I remember four or five years ago Venus got a series of really bad calls while playing against Justine Henin at the French Open and Justine lied about one of the calls agreeing with the lineperson who was wrong.

    Posted by: Bill | Sep 13, 2009 12:53:21 PM

  7. NO excuse to call a foot fault at that point in the match, and certainly in this case the call is NOT clear cut. I watched a replay, and it certainly wasn't obvious.

    Second, that lineswoman should have just kept her ass in her chair after. Did she honestly feel Serena was going to attack her? No.

    Third, none of this excuses Serena's actions.

    A very unfortunate series of events.

    Posted by: Michael | Sep 13, 2009 12:57:29 PM

  8. Michael, are you suggesting that a player should be able to serve while standing anywhere on the court at all? Should someone be able to serve from the service line? If not, how far inside the baseline should a severer be able to strike the ball? Should foot faults be permitted only on critical points? I'm sorry, but as a former nationally ranked tennis player, there is a reason for the foot fault rule.

    Did she foot fault? Serena said that she likely did, and footage taken from another angle, an angle not offered by the vantage point that CBS had, but from a clearer perspective confirmed without doubt that Serena did indeed foot fault.

    Lastly, the line judge was called to the umpire's chair by the umpire, and that too is a rule. When a player approaches a linesman in the way that Serena did, the rule of tennis mandates that the linesman reports any possible violation. In this case, the linesperson did not approach the umpire until she was called to do so--she was just doing her job, and her job is to call foot faults.

    I love the Williams sisters, and when they were just little girls had the opportunity to play a little exhibition match with them, prior to the semis of an ATP event. Such amazing talent, and remarkable role models--I believe that in my heart of hearts. In this particular case Serena's temper got the best of her in a case of really unfortunate timing.

    Posted by: MackMike | Sep 13, 2009 1:44:29 PM

  9. Whether the call was proper or not is best left for the folks there to decide. What we saw was a world-class athlete lose her cool to the point of threatening to ram a ball down an official's throat. And that's AFTER breaking her racket earlier in the game. Her behavior was abominable. She caused this herself. It would have been better to try and rebound form the bad call and appeal the decision later than to end her run this way.

    Posted by: DR | Sep 13, 2009 1:45:08 PM

  10. It does not matter if it was late in the match or not - a foot fault penalty should have been given and not overlooked simply because Serena was about to lose. You can't cheat and get by with it simply because it's your last shot to keep from losing. Which is exactly the issue here - Serena can't tolerate the fact that she was BEAT in that match by a better player in this tournament. Kim should celebrate because it was clear she was going to win.

    It doesn't matter if the line judge felt threatened or not. Yelling the f word once out of anger is one thing but Serena Williams knows better - excusing her behavior and assuming that it was an unfair call because people want to be so quick to yell racism is ridiculous. Every single player gets bad calls all the time - just because it happens to the Williams sisters does not make it racism.

    She lost and she deserved to lose. I'll be happy when those two are out of this sport altogether. They and their parents are ridiculous.

    Posted by: Erick | Sep 13, 2009 1:58:48 PM

  11. MacMike: I agree w/ most of what u said except about Oudin. There was no comparison to the Williams sisters because Oudin's game is different from theirs. I think she was compared to Evert & Austin because she had similar styles with them - they're all counter-punchers with more defensive games. The Williams sisters are more power-hitters & have more offensive games.

    I really did feel bad for Clijsters because she was outplaying Serena & deserved to win. Serena just lost it & I understood why. However, it doesn't excuse her behaviour. I still like her & she'll still be seen as one of the all-time greats. This is just blip in her career & I hope she learns from it.

    Posted by: scar2 | Sep 13, 2009 2:12:22 PM

  12. At least incidents like this remind all those snooty status-conscious tennis fans that it's just another sport, no better than hockey.

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Sep 13, 2009 2:13:13 PM

  13. Even if the official was wrong, you can't lose your cool like that in ANY sport.

    Posted by: KFLO | Sep 13, 2009 2:39:55 PM

  14. It seems that nearly every foot fault called during this US Open was called on either Venus or Serena. Racism in tennis?

    Posted by: nonono | Sep 13, 2009 3:19:18 PM

  15. "......Replays indicated it wasn't a foot fault at all............"

    "......Replays indicated it wasn't a foot fault at all............"

    "......Replays indicated it wasn't a foot fault at all............"


    Maybe her words were poorly chosen but she was RIGHT!!!! and had every reason to be very angry


    How much racism is behind some posting here who couldn't wait for the "replay" update that shows serena was 100% in the right to be very very angry

    Poor choice of words, but she was in the right to be angry

    "......Replays indicated it wasn't a foot fault at all............"

    Posted by: jimmyboyo | Sep 13, 2009 4:07:17 PM

  16. so what if she yelled?

    i'm guessing cause it's a big scary black woman that the ref feared for her life

    John McEnroe had far worse blow ups

    sports are sports & this goes with the territory - just cause it's tennis people want these girls to fart daisies


    Posted by: sundog | Sep 13, 2009 4:29:21 PM

  17. Leave it to Jimmyboyo to bring up race...again. So predictable.

    Posted by: jmg | Sep 13, 2009 5:32:53 PM

  18. JimmyBoyo, the replays that most saw were on CBS. Their camera was set up that offered an angle that was unable to substantiate a foot fault. The Tennis Channel had their own camera set up at such an angle that it make it abundantly clear that Serena foot faulted. Having said that, she did not lose due to the foot fault, she lost for verbally abusing a linesman. Had that been her only warning of the day, she would not have lost a point, but it was not her first. The rule came into being in the 1980's, to counter some of the abuse and long delays caused by Nastase, Connors and McEnroe. Indeed, she had every right to be angry, and she had the choice to direct that anger at the linesman rather than the chair umpire; however, it was the right of the officials to penalize her a point, and that was the price she paid.

    Scar2, I understand where you are coming from, I do. Having played with Tracy, I know her game very well, and I also sparred with Evert when I was a kid, warming her up for a tournament later her career, so I know her game well too. It is true that Melanie's game is more similar to theirs, but the comparisons being drawn by the commentators were simply about being a teen working her way through the Open. After all, they even mention Shirver, whose came Melanie's is nothing like. I just feel that the Williams sisters just haven't reaped the crowd support and the endorsement deals that others before them enjoyed. Speaking in general terms, about players who worked their way through to the later rounds at an Open, Little Moe, Chris, Tracy, and Shriver have been mentioned several times, which made the absence of the Williams sisters names in that list a bit glaring.

    Now just to completely be bore you: true enough, both Williams owe a great debt of gratitude to Seles for the way that they play (Seles owes a great deal of debt to Evert, and perhaps even a bit to Agassi, who like her picked the ball up on the rise in a way that was never seen before). Serena also shares a few things in common with Martina. Melanie's game is a hybrid of Evert's and Seles'...the latter must be mentioned, because no player today can get through the majors without taking that ball on rise today.

    King is responsible for the popularity and depth in women's tennis. Evert's game forever impacted the way tennis would be played--perfecting the baseline game. Navratilova forever change the way tennis players would train and the athleticism of the game. Seles took Everts game and ramped it up, showing women everywhere the advantage of striking the ball while it was on the rise, rather than dropping back and trying to take it at waist level. These are the four names in women's tennis who have had the most impact on how the game is played today.

    Posted by: MackMike | Sep 13, 2009 5:34:26 PM

  19. Tennis is not hockey, Sundog--it is governed by a different set of rules, and it is watched differently than other sports. During the McEnroe era, the arguments grew so long, ratings began to dip over time as viewers grew bored waiting for players to return to the game. The game is sustain (typically) by only two players, when one stops play for any length of time, momentum dies, and it just can't sustain the level of interest that hockey or football can when a fight breaks out, there is more to watch, and the demographic is so different.

    Posted by: MackMike | Sep 13, 2009 5:38:27 PM

  20. Tennis sure ain't hockey. Hockey isn't so retarded.

    Posted by: Let'sFaceIt | Sep 13, 2009 5:54:47 PM

  21. This makes me love her even more.

    Posted by: Tommy | Sep 13, 2009 6:13:38 PM

  22. I just think she has "Black women" syndrome.

    Posted by: BgRnso | Sep 13, 2009 6:55:31 PM

  23. It was unfortunate that the match ended the way it did. Serena's behavior was inappropriate for sure, no excuse, but how many times has Serena cussed out a lines person? I've been a fan of the Williams Sisters since they debuted on the professional tour and they have been very stand up ambassadors of the sport.

    I'm shocked at the response I've seen from various commentators about this incident, calling for her suspension from the tour. Serena loses her cool one night, acts inappropriately, and now they want her head. An example must be made because apparently NO ONE else on tour acts like a psycho, smashing rackets and cussing people out lol. She's the biggest women's star currently, they need to cut her some slack and realize this was just a bad night that she'll have to live with.

    Her behavior was aweful, but I this doesn't smudge her as a person or player in my eyes. She still one of the best to have played the game and a stand up person.

    Posted by: Daws | Sep 13, 2009 7:01:54 PM

  24. If she doesn't like foot fault calls, maybe she should back her sasquatch ass up 6 inches. (I'd say Gorilla, but then I'd get a hundred comments saying I was a racist - which is absurd considering that I'm an african american myself. I just don't like women who look like heavyweight male wretlers.)

    Posted by: Jeremy Pivo | Sep 13, 2009 8:16:53 PM

  25. ...who gives a flip about what you, jeremy "i'm african american myself" doesn't like...?

    Posted by: yeahisaidit | Sep 13, 2009 9:13:37 PM

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