Serena Defaulted on Match Point - Clijsters Into Final
September 12, 2009 -- Serena Williams, the woman overwhelmingly favored to win the 2009 women's championship at the U. S. Open, lost to Kim Clijsters in a stunning upset tonight marred by controversy, unsportsmanlike behavior, and inconvenient foot faults, when the 11-time major champion was defaulted on match point.
Kim Clijsters from Belgium now becomes the first woman in the Open Era to make her way to the finals as a wildcard entry; she took the match 64 75.
Caroline Wozniacki defeated another Belgian player, the unseeded Yanina Wickmayer 63 63, in the second women's semifinal of the evening. Wozniacki seeded 9th will make her first appearance in a major final when she meets Clijsters in the late afternoon tomorrow.
The match between Williams and Clijsters, however, began rocky and finished as an irate Williams flung thunderous threats at a linesperson who had called a foot fault on her at 15/30, deep in the second set at 5-6 Williams. It was the second time in the match Williams had been called for a foot fault.
"I've never been foot faulted, and then suddenly in this tournament they keep calling foot faults," Williams said.
Before Williams began her service motion at 15/40, her temper got the best of her as well as the real momentum of the match. It was going in the wrong direction, perhaps seconds away from her own defeat. So she turned and walked toward the linesperson, pointing at the woman with one hand as she clutched a ball in the other. She did not compliment the official or her call, but sprayed her with profanity.
"I didn't threaten," Williams began. "I didn't say -- I donŐt remember anymore, to be honest. I was in the moment. And, you know, everyone's fighting for every point. It was a really crucial point, 15-30, actually. And, you know, at that point you just kind of keep going."
Williams then walked back to the service line to begin the point one more time, but instead reignited her barrage of epithets at the official.
By this time the chair umpire waved to the linesperson for clarification. As she ran to the chair, Tournament Referee Brian Earley came out. After a short confrontation between Williams, the linesperson and Earley, Serena tossed her racquet on her court bag, crossed to Clijsters side of the court and shook her hand.
Williams had been defaulted from the match on match point. It was her second code violation of the evening, the first a warning for racquet abuse. Williams crushed her Wilson stick all over the baseline moments after she lost the first set. The second code violation, the one for which she was defaulted, was for unsportsmanlike behavior.
"Well, you know, I'm just clearly not happy, but it was -- I don't know," Williams said. "Like, I mean, obviously I wanted to fight. I always fight when I'm down and keep going. I planned on hitting a couple of aces, but I guess it didn't work out."
Obviously in a foul mood from the get-go, Williams' outburst was more than likely an accumulation of frustration and anger. Earlier in the first set she shot a one-finger salute to a group of photographers after suffering another in a series of disgruntling points. The players had been on hold for their match since yesterday due to steady rain.
Williams serve, her normal go-to shot, wobbled throughout the match. She scored an uncharacteristic 7 double faults, and an equally uncharacteristic 31 errors to 26 winners. She was broken five times and was 32% on points won on her second serve compared to 72% for Clijsters. Williams knew the match was going badly.
"Today was a tough day," she said. "Kim played an incredible match. She had a really great plan."
Williams would not, though, divulge the details about the encounter with the linesman. "I don't think that's necessary."
She tried to deflect the controversial nature of the default, too, and the disappointing quality with which she blanketed the entire evening.
"I'm really an intense person," she said. "I just go for it."
But Williams did not do her best, as far as the tournament considers. The embarrassment of her actions will linger and cast a pall over the women's final and into the future of the sport. Her high-profile status in tennis and international sports entertainment will intensify the incident and opinions surroundings it. Williams did not seem to regret her temperamental behaviors, either.
"I haven't really thought about it to have any regrets," Williams said. "I try not to live my life saying I wish, I wish. But, you know, I was out there and I fought and I tried and I did my best."
Serena Williams was the odds on favorite to win the title. It would have been her 12th. She had not dropped a set in her first five rounds of play; and, she had spent a touch under six hours in competition. She had had two days to rest and recover. All lights were green, as far as the tennis world could see.
It will be interesting to see the reactions form fans as the Williams sisters contend for the women's doubles title. They await the winners of the semifinal match between Stosur/Stubbs and Black/Huber.
Kim Clijsters didn't look very excited as she sat courtside, stunned like the fans filing out of the huge stadium. We will see if she can clear her head enough by the time she steps foot on Arthur Ashe Stadium tomorrow.