Kim Clijsters made short work of opponent Caroline Wozniacki to take
the U.S. Open women's singles title tonight. But a victory for
Clijsters─who returned to tennis with low expectations after she took a
two-year break to have a baby─will not be what most people remember
about this Open. Instead, they'll be talking about Serena Williams's
tirade against a line judge: an outburst that cost Williams the match
and, later, a $10,000 fine.
Clijsters and Williams had been competing in the semifinals earlier
in the day. After a line judge awarded Clijsters a crucial point,
saying Williams had foot-faulted on her serve, Williams pointed at the
judge, sad she'd shove the tennis ball down the judge's throat, and later tried to reassure the match
referee and other officials that she never threatened the judge's life. The judge awarded Clijsters an additional point based on
Williams's unsportsmanlike conduct, which cost Williams the match. (To
her credit, Williams walked over to Clijsters without reservation,
shook her hand, and wished her well.)
While Williams supporters point out that tantrums in tennis are nothing new, it appears that Williams is the first to threaten a judge, rather than just impugn her skills and spout profanities in her general direction. It's probably safe to say that although Williams was not actually going to stuff a tennis ball down the line judge's throat, it did appear to cross a line. Previous tantrums have been just that: puffed chests and bickering, with a few tossed rackets and broadcast-unfriendly words thrown in, but no implied violence (except to the water glasses in the way of John McEnroe's forehand).
See for yourself: we collected video of some recent─and classic─tennis freakouts.
1. Serena Williams, U.S. Open 2009
Williams was fined $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct by the U.S. Open. This is the maximum amount a Grand Slam tournament can levy against a player, but not the highest in the sport─Maria Sharapova, for instance, was fined $125,000 for pulling out of a tournament in Berlin in 2008, though that fine was more like docked wages than an incurred debt. Williams also earned another $500 fine for "racket abuse" (no rackets are abused in the above clip). The Open has not yet decided whether the entire outburst merits further penalties, such as a suspension.
2. Jimmy Connors, Lipton International Players Championship, 1986
Connors complained so vociferously about the officiating that a judge defaulted him in the fifth set, ending the match. Connors stormed off the court and later had to pay $20,000 in fines. He was issued a 10-week suspension, causing him to miss the French Open.
3. John McEnroe, 1981 Wimbledon
There are plenty of McEnroe tantrums from which to choose, but this one is the loudest─and most memorable. McEnroe was fined $1,500 for this outburst, and "You cannot be serious" became something of a catchphrase, and later became the title of his 2002 autobiography. He
lost the match. went on to win the tournament.
4. Mikhail Youzhny, 2008 Miami Masters Tournament
This one is courtesy of Tennis.com:
Youzhny had just missed an easy shot while attempting to come back from 5-4 down in the third set when he decided to attack his tennis racquet with his head. Youznhy whacked himself three times on the head in front of a stunned audience, opening a wide gash in his head, and forcing a stoppage in play.
When play resumed, he won the next seven points, and by consequence, the match. Congratulations?
5. Marat Safin
... be the same as this Marat Safin, who during the 2009 Hopman Cup kissed an elderly netminder he accidentally beaned with a ball?
While Serena Williams is the only woman on this list, she's not the only professional female tennis player prone to bad behavior. The others didn't have the misfortune of being caught on YouTube. (Sharapova, who possesses quite the potty mouth, sticks mostly to shouting profanity without breaking her stride). Of course, I just learned what, exactly, a "set" was today, so I don't have the best institutional memory for these kinds of things. Let me know what other on-court meltdowns should make the list: leave your favorites (or least favorites) in the comments.