Monday, September 14, 2009

Serena's meltdown

We've all been angry at one point or another in our lives. We've all seen others lose their tempers and situations that escalate in the heat of the moment. But I'd have to say that the events that ended the U.S. Open women's semifinal match between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters left the tennis world stunned.

Rainy weather washed out tournament play on Friday, and for much of Saturday. It wasn't even clear if the Williams/Clijsters showdown would take place that evening.

By now the news of Serena's actions have been well-documented throughout the news and YouTube world. I watched a replay of her words to the lineswoman via my DVR the next morning. I was truly surprised at what transpired and her vulgar language.

Then I read through the transcript of her post-match interview, which left me losing more respect for Serena than before. What I basically heard from her comments is that she had no remorse for what happened. She didn't think an apology was necessary to the lineswoman whom she verbally threatened with the words:

"If I could, I would take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat."

In seeing the video of the exchange with the chair umpire, and tournament referee Brian Earley, I got an even better sense of how Serena felt about her actions. Her defense was simply this: "Sorry, but there are a lot of people who've said way worse."

Oh, come on. That's your excuse? First of all, taking the John McEnroe approach, or citing any other player who's gotten mad at a linesjudge or chair, is not in the same league as what Serena did. Getting upset about a call and making that known by yelling at the chair umpire by saying "you can't be serious" is not the same thing as threatening to shove a tennis ball down someone's throat.

Not to mention that she was trying to justify what she said by saying she's heard worse; that is unacceptable as well. Remember the "if everyone jumped off a bridge" scenario?

Plus, nothing in her interview seemed to add up. I did not feel that she saw the severity of what she did, or that it was even a big deal. She seemed more concerned with the fact that, in her eyes, the U.S. Open kept calling her for foot faults. The call that set her off was questionable, but that is entirely beside the point. Nothing justifies her behavior.

I can understand that her outburst was probably the result of a "heat of the moment" situation. Everybody loses their cool sometimes. But what was hard to get past for me were her actions following the incident. Coming out with remorse and apologetic words, instead of defensiveness and essentially brushing it off as nothing out of the ordinary, would be the way to handle the aftermath.

Serena was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct by the U.S. Open on Sunday. To put it in perspecitve, she earned $350,000 for reaching the semifinals. Another investigation is ongoing by the Grand Slam tournament officials, which could result in a much heftier fine for one of America's top female players.

While I was writing this entry, Serena served up an apology (on her second attempt) on her Web site, and also made an abbreviated entry on her Twitter page. My first thought? Too little, too late. This second statement does not reek of the same sincerity it may have, had it come sooner. Here is her initial attempt at an "apology" Sunday through a public relations agency:

"Last night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure I can see that while I don't agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly."

Maybe I need to go back and read it for the fourth time, because I can't find the words "I'm sorry" or "apologize" anywhere. And dubbing the line call "unfair" doesn't sound like an apology to me.

Now, she has amended that statement today, in order to "sincerely apologize." I'm sorry Ms. Williams, but I don't think you can use the word "sincere" at this stage of the game.

Note: Serena also apologized during her post-match interview after she and sister Venus won the women's doubles title. The apologies have been made as she hopes to move on with her career. I think the tennis world will move on with her, but this incident will not stray far from memories.

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