FanDuel - WFBC

September 13, 2009

Serena Williams Loses U.S. Open Match for Threatening Line Judge: Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open quarterfinal to Kim Clijsters when she was penalized a point for threatening a line judge who called a foot fault. With the score 6-4, 6-5 and 15-30 in the 12th game of the second set, Williams double-faulted on a foot fault -- which appeared to be a bad call -- and then walked over to the judge and reportedly said, "I swear to God I'll fucking take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat! Do you hear me? I swear to God. You better be fucking glad that I'm not, I swear." After the line judge told the chair umpire what had been said, Williams was told about the penalty and responded, "I didn't say I would kill you." See the video and her post-match press conference. Here's another clip for lip readers and more details on who said what when. "Without a doubt, this penalty was warranted," wrote Tom Perrotta on Tennis.Com. Unfortunate quote by Williams afterward: "My idol is John McEnroe."

posted by rcade to tennis at 10:40 AM - 66 comments

which appeared to be a bad call

I don't know; hard to tell from the camera angle. But it sure looks like a foot fault to me. I think it's amazing that so much of the commentary afterwards is that a judge should not call a foot fault at that point of the match. Question: at what point in a match do the rules no longer apply?

Cjisters outplayed Serena, but there are some that will now say Serena was robbed. If so, she robbed herself.

posted by graymatters at 11:18 AM on September 13

That "unfortunate" quote was actually dry sarcasm. I'm no Serena fan, but that was a good one.

posted by The_Special_Juan at 11:33 AM on September 13

I think the quote was unfortunate to John McEnroe. She said it to explain her competitiveness, I think as a way of explaining her tirade.

There's no excuse for what she did. Does tennis suspend players for conduct? She ought to spend a tournament in timeout, or perhaps be forced to work as a line judge.

posted by rcade at 11:36 AM on September 13

I know John. He was probably the first person to laugh at the comment.

posted by The_Special_Juan at 11:46 AM on September 13

McEnroe's first response is to chew out the official himself. The jerk. And the announcers are blabbing on about "that's not a foot fault blah bah" , from a camera angle which is behind both her ankles. for a fault relating to the toe. Meanwhile, the official is 30 feet away with the sole responsibility at that moment of looking down that line and calling foot faults. I say, screw babybrain McEnroe as being part of a direct lineage of snotty entitlement leading directly to Serena's behaviour.

And I think Serena is a good, interesting person who will indeed be actually remorseful about this within a few days, while McEnroe will keep on being a spoiled petulant brat.

posted by rumple at 11:54 AM on September 13

People lose their temper sometimes. They snap. Get over it. She certainly did (and so did John).

posted by The_Special_Juan at 11:58 AM on September 13

I'd like to point out she didn't lose because she threatened the line judge. She lost because she was outplayed by Kim Clijsters. She lost the match point because she verbally assaulted a line judge, the headline leads one to believe she was disqualified but that is not the case.

posted by soocher at 11:58 AM on September 13

From that Perrotta article: When pros foot fault, they do it by fractions of inches, distances so small that no unfair advantage is gained. And they do it by accident.

This is just disingenous. When the ball misses the line by fractions of inches, it is also out. When they miss-hit their shot by fractions of inches, it goes into the freakin' stands. So what'ya going to do? Ignore the line, and say, ok, a couple of of fractions of an inch over is ok, but a few fractions of an inch over is not? That'll help a lot. The line is there for a reason, there is already an official watching that line, don't foot fault (and seriously, she is looking down at her feet bouncing the ball at the time) and no problem.

posted by rumple at 11:59 AM on September 13

I believe saying this to an official:
"I swear to God I'll fucking take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat! Do you hear me? I swear to God. You better be gladyou better be fucking glad that I'm not, I swear."

... is cause for disqualification at any time, not just an unfortunately-timed point deduction. I am not defending Serena at all, I just predict she will cop to having been wrong and then move on.

posted by rumple at 12:03 PM on September 13

Get over it. She certainly did ...

... yet she didn't apologize. Williams' comments in the press conference showed that she felt something bad was done to her, not that she did something wrong.

I don't want to make it seem like it's some heinous crime she's committed, but this is a problem entirely of her own making.

posted by rcade at 12:15 PM on September 13

I dropped some flames from this discussion. Don't be like Serena, people.

posted by rcade at 12:25 PM on September 13

The foot fault in top-flight tennis is a bit like the double dribble in the NBA: it's in the rules, but it happens so rarely that it's a shock when it gets called. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be called, but I can imagine a double-dribble call in the final play of an NBA game provoking the same response from the players and crowd.

What surprised me about that post-match press conference was Serena's "ah, it's in the past, la-di-da" attitude. Especially when you can imagine what that line-judge would have been feeling at the same time.

Plus, as the replay showed, Serena might have escaped that point deduction if she hadn't gone back for a second gobful. I'm not going to say "suicide by cop" here, given the exchange that happened at the umpire's chair, but it felt like a slightly cheap way out of a match where she was outplayed, knew she was being outplayed, and was frustrated by her game.

posted by etagloh at 12:52 PM on September 13

It was striking her tirade was accompanied by the threatening jabbing of a tennis racket wihin a few metres of the official. With guns like hers added to the mix, commentators who are saying they don't believe the official should have felt threatened are way out to lunch. The bigger picture of foot faults should maybe be looked at, or dealt with by Hawkeye (and that's a good comparison at one level to the double dribble except that foot faults are more objectively callable (foot on line Y/N) by single-purpose officials, and they unfold at far slower speed). But this incident was one of the closest things I have seen of a player actually snapping and assaulting an official in a tennis match. Like I said, I understand that she was only deducted a point for this, which happened to be match point, but in my eyes it was ample grounds for an outright disqualification regardless of the score, and perhaps even more fitting and needed if she had been ahead at the time.

posted by rumple at 01:17 PM on September 13

How long until Richard Williams complains of racism?

posted by cjets at 02:04 PM on September 13

I think it was obvious frustration with her own play, the fact that Cjisters was just better last night, and was the height of petulance. But it's a pretty isloated incident.

It shouldn't ruin Serena's well earned lagacy and no where near puts her in McEnroe's category.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:47 PM on September 13

I don't know what behavior would warrant awarding match point as a penalty, but I know what Serena did wasn't it. Fine the player later for bad conduct, but let them finish the match.

During one of the many rain delays, they showed the infamous Nastase/McEnroe match. After much drama, the umpire was begging Nastase to serve. They defaulted Nastase for failing to serve. Then, reversed it, replaced the umpire. Then continued the match. Nastase lost anyway.

posted by bperk at 02:57 PM on September 13

I don't know; hard to tell from the camera angle. But it sure looks like a foot fault to me

So...which is it? Either you don't know, you couldn't tell from the camera angle or it looked like a foot fault to you? It sure as hell looked like it was a miscall to me because Serena's foot wasn't over the line at all. The line judge is lucky that Serena didn't "take [the] ball and shove it down [her] fucking throat".

posted by BornIcon at 03:21 PM on September 13

How are none of you commenting on what seemed to have been an exaggerated claim of a death threat by the line judge? After she ran over to the umpire, Serena is heard to deny threatening to kill her. I seem to also hear a "yes you did" that may have been from out of the frame.

So she lost her cool. She did a pretty immediate about-face and collected herself, congratulating Clijsters before calmly exiting.

Women's tennis, since it is three sets, should have a win by two matches rule. Or something.

posted by geekyguy at 04:24 PM on September 13

I'm pretty sure shoving a fucking tennis ball down your throat would kill you.

posted by jmd82 at 04:45 PM on September 13

How are none of you commenting on what seemed to have been an exaggerated claim of a death threat by the line judge?

Check out this link. The line judge didn't tell the chair umpire that she was threatened. The chair called her over to ask what Serena said, and the line judge said "she said 'fuck you'."

The chair made the judgment at that point to award a penalty point. Serena later said her "I didn't say I would kill you" was said because she misunderstood what the line judge reported.

I don't see how the chair had any choice but to award a penalty point. Serena didn't just mutter a few remarks -- she marched up to the line judge twice, was clearly profane, and made threatening gestures with her hands and the racket. The whole place knew she was out of line.

posted by rcade at 05:16 PM on September 13

Serena had already been warned for unsportsmanlike conduct once in the match for breaking her racket after losing the first set. The rules state that the second infraction is a loss of a point. She probably wouldn't have been hit with the second infraction if she didn't go back for a second heaping of abuse.

I don't know if it was a foot fault or not, but Serena acted poorly in this situation. There's no excuse for making a threatening gesture or statement.

posted by cabuki at 06:59 PM on September 13

I don't see how the chair had any choice but to award a penalty point. Serena didn't just mutter a few remarks -- she marched up to the line judge twice, was clearly profane, and made threatening gestures with her hands and the racket. The whole place knew she was out of line.

If only more sports awarded penalties for abusing officials. I imagine footballers would suddenly discover new powers of self-control if the penalty for mobbing the referee was a penalty or a goal awarded.

posted by rodgerd at 07:00 PM on September 13

Very nice profile and interview with Serena Williams from just before the start of the US Open. As I said, I think she will be genuinely remorseful in time and continue to be a tough-but-fair competitor on court, and a pretty decent person off of it.

posted by rumple at 07:13 PM on September 13

Series of important points to be made here:

* Serena did not foot fault. Neither did I see it, nor did the commentators, nor did any of the multiple other sources I've read this evening (sorry - I don't know how to link but I've ready three other sources which all say it wasn't even close) * Serena was out of line but did not threaten the line judge's life * In both basketball and football it is common that in crunch time, tickey tack fouls are not called. "Let them play" is the common phrase. Same thing applies here. Yes, it's a double standard. Get over it. * Serena more than likely would have lost. * Serena was gracious in walking to Clijsters and shaking her hand. No poor sports(wo)manship there. * If Serena really wants to make a point, she should refuse to play a future match in which the woman who fucked her works the lines. I'm with Serena on this: she may have herself to blame for letting it get to her, but she was thrown off her game over a bullshit call that should never have been made. If she stands up for herself, and literally sits out a significant match if the officials refuse to remove this cowardly lines judge, then I am certain the message will come down from the league and it's sponsors: Serena is more important than any lines judge. That lines judge is gone. No more bullshit. Yes, the top players are in charge. They are the ones who draw the attention which makes the money that allows everyone else to have a job.

posted by MW12 at 08:24 PM on September 13

I don't think I want star players to start dictating which officials can oversee matches/games. Every official is highly trained, and their work is continuously being evaluated, bad ones are removed. Just because they blow a call every now and then does not constitute an excuse for a player to refuse to play.

Imagine what would happen if every time a player had a call go against them they demanded that the official be removed. We'd run out of officials pretty quickly.

posted by dviking at 11:15 PM on September 13

If the call was bullshit she should have challenged the call instead of reacting like a spoilt and foulmouthed brat. Bad calls are a fact of life...sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn't. The argument here is not about whether the call was good or bad. The debate here is over how she reacted. Nobody was in a better position to call it than the line judge. Not anyone at home watching tv, not the commentators, maybe the umpire could have overruled but didn't. That's why they have a line judge. MW12 says the ones who make the most money should get special treatment. This sort of reasoning is dangerous and wrong. So how should the rules be re-written? That is probably what Serena was thinking when she got called...."How dare she call a foot fault on me? How much do you make a year, you lowly line-judge." Why limit it to rules in sports? Why not give special get out of jail free cards to the best paid sportspeople, maybe Michael Vick shouldn't have been sentenced to jail for dogfighting.

Rules are rules...if it had not been called it would have been unfair to Kim Clijsters. I also watched an interview on bloomberg with Nic Bolletieri who said he would not have called a foot fault at that juncture of the game and that the line judge had practically invited a tirade against her for doing so at that crucial point in the game. Maybe that's why Serena said what she did...when the person who is and has been responsible for churning out some of the best and brightest tennis talents have this sort of attitude, it is no wonder they behave this way...shame on you Serena and shame on you Nick.

posted by everet at 11:33 PM on September 13

"cowardly lines judge"

It would have been cowardly for the line judge to hold her tongue. Had she not called it as she saw it she would have avoided the possible repercussions of being the nobody who made the call that angered the mighty Serena.

These other sources, who say it "wasn't even close;" even if you "don't know how to link," you do know how to say who they were. Perhaps naming your sources would help remove the taste of the word "cowardly" from your mouth and mine.

posted by Hugh Janus at 11:36 PM on September 13

If she stands up for herself, and literally sits out a significant match if the officials refuse to remove this cowardly lines judge, then I am certain the message will come down from the league and it's sponsors

And she looses any goodwill with the fans and probably her Nike contract as she falls out of favor with the public.

posted by jmd82 at 11:55 PM on September 13

When the One Great Scorer Comes To mark against your name, He writes not whether you won or lost, But how you played the game. (Grantland Rice)

100 times on the blackboard, Serena.

posted by sandskater at 02:27 AM on September 14

Imagine what would happen if every time a player had a call go against them they demanded that the official be removed. We'd run out of officials pretty quickly.

Imagine what would happen if players were removed from the sport for making mistakes!

Apparently the officials must be flawless, but a moment's honest reflection for Ms Williams would make it clear that she lost because she had a shit game and lost her self-control.

posted by rodgerd at 02:53 AM on September 14

I don't follow tennis nor know much about it. I have seen the "episode" and just wonder. Regardless of a "bad call," if a pro baseball manager/player, pro football coach/player pro basketball coach/manager attacked an official in the same way what the consequences might be. Imagine the NCAA or youth leagues allowing it? I think we all the the answer to that!

posted by wildbill1 at 06:53 AM on September 14

I don't follow tennis nor know much about it.

There's quite a lot of that in this thread. Just take it that this is the equivalent of a "pine tar" call on a bat that never had pine tar anywhere near it.

But then, I guess you'd have to have been around for the original Billy Martin "pine tar" call to get that one, and probably a lot of people weren't. The double dribble analogy is a good one: a lot of times in NBA basketball, there's something that could be argued to be a double dribble, but that isn't called -- because it isn't the classic "double dribble" that the rule was created to prevent, something that gives a clear advantage, and because it isn't normally called. So suddenly, you call it in a championship game as a team that's down by one has the ball with five seconds on the clock...and it's a crap call to boot. I think that's a pretty good analogy.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:41 AM on September 14

Bad call or not Sarena over reacted. She said things that should not have been said. Having been a referee in various sports I know what kind of abuse can be inflicted on these people and more needs to be done to stop it.

She'd already thrown a tantrum at the end of the first set and received a warning so it was not an isolated incident in the match. She was getting her a** handed to her and could not handle the frustration.

I'm surprised some reporter has not found the people who were sitting right behind the judge to find out what they heard her say. Outside of the judge and Sarena they probably would know the best.

posted by scottypup at 09:41 AM on September 14

Figured out how to link something. Here is one of the articles referencing the call as "ridiculous," "terrible," and "unconscionable," with a link within the link that shows the whole incident transpire.

Doesn't look like a foot fault, but it does look like Serena's tirade has been overblown (IMO). And I maintain my belief that the line judge is a coward. Players in all sports yell at refs, umps, judges all the time. A typical response is to ignore it, or dismiss it. She should have told the chair person it was no big deal and to let the match play. But instead she compounded the matter by telling the tournament director Serena made threats that Serena denies. I consider that cowardly.

And the incident earlier in the match had nothing to do with anyone else. Serena was mad at herself and broke a racket. No harm done, no threats made to anyone else. Actions unbecoming? Sure. But to end a semifinal in a major tournament this way? Completely inexcusable by all parties involved. Breaking a racket is the equivalent of knocking over a water cooler by a football player. Whoop de doo. The outburst at the end was the first time in the match when Serena said anything to anyone else, and to end a match so significant for that reason is insane.

posted by MW12 at 11:26 AM on September 14

Nobody was in a better position to call it than the line judge. Not anyone at home watching tv, not the commentators

That's not entirely accurate. Granted, the viewers at home watching this take place are not capable of making the call but I sure as hell saw that the line judge was wrong by watching this match on HDTV. What Serena did was wrong as well and she did the right thing by apologizing but the judge was still wrong for making such a bad call. We as fans have the chance of watching sports in High Def and I clearly saw Serena's foot behind the line. Serena went overboard but had a reason to be upset.

posted by BornIcon at 12:19 PM on September 14

Players in all sports yell at refs, umps, judges all the time. A typical response is to ignore it, or dismiss it.

Uh, have you watched other pro sports before? In MLB, you get thrown when you abuse the ref. In NHL, the players skate over to the ref and talk calmly (with the exception of the occasional Royesque moment of ballistic anger). In NFL, it's a mass of players pointing it's the other team's fault, not yelling they're going to shove a football down the ref's throat.

There's a world of difference between arguing against a call and berating & threatening the ref. I think if Serena had gone all John Mcenroe, "That was not a foot foul!!! You need a new pair of glasses!!!" This would be an entirely different argument.

posted by jmd82 at 12:40 PM on September 14

Serena was so out of line it is not funny. She lost the match and cannot blame a one point deduction for something that in most other sports is cause for immediate ejection.

Do not compare this with ticky tack calls in basketball. In basketball a foul can be called on every play and sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. When a player loses his temper and crosses the line he is assessed a technical. This is similar to the point in tennis and has about as much impact on the outcome. She lost the game and her temper because she could not control herself or her play. I always liked her but now no so much. All of her money, talent and fame does not give her the right to abuse a person who is doing their best and trying to make a living. She should be ashamed of herself. It is like a millionaire trying to get a waiter fired for accidentally making a mistake on their order. Disgraceful!

posted by Atheist at 01:30 PM on September 14

Again, we have no idea what was said. We are led to believe it was threatening because the lines judge says so - but she was a good fifteen to twenty feet away from Serena and the crowd noise was such that no one else in the stadium, nor any of the mics on the court, could hear it. I'm starting to wonder why Serena wasn't given the benefit of the doubt. Extenuating circumstances? Absolutely - on many levels.

In MLB, you get thrown when you abuse the ref. In NHL, the players skate over to the ref and talk calmly (with the exception of the occasional Royesque moment of ballistic anger). In NFL, it's a mass of players pointing it's the other team's fault, not yelling they're going to shove a football down the ref's throat.

Serena's tirade lasted a grand total of three seconds. She did not get in the face of the lines judge, as happens in MLB, NHL, and NFL. The only time Serena got close to anybody is when she said to the tournament director that she had not said what she was accused of saying.

posted by MW12 at 01:34 PM on September 14

You must be watching different video than the rest of the world. Most of what she said isn't in doubt. You can see it in the lip readers link above and the many press accounts. It's a lot longer than three seconds -- closer to 18 by my estimate.

posted by rcade at 01:40 PM on September 14

Again, we have no idea what was said

Oh, I have a pretty clear idea as to why Serena said. It's obvious what Serena is saying to the line judge from the clip and she sure wasn't asking her about her how her day is going so far.

posted by BornIcon at 01:55 PM on September 14

Ok, 18 seconds, and she says she'll shove the ball down the judges throat (how very theatrical but not really a death threat). Was anything else audible/readable?

It's damning, and justifies the fine. But under the circumstances, I still say Serena is the victim here.

posted by MW12 at 02:05 PM on September 14

Ok, 18 seconds, and she says she'll shove the ball down the judges throat (how very theatrical but not really a death threat).

Telling someone, "I swear to God I'll fucking take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat! Do you hear me? I swear to God. You better be fucking glad that I'm not, I swear." is a threat. Call it what you will but when you tell someone something like what Serena said, that's considered to be a threat.

I jokingly made light of this situation cosidering I thought that the line judge was wrong with calling the foot foul but Serena stepped over a different kind of line with her remarks and deserves the fine.

I still say Serena is the victim here

And you would be wrong.

posted by BornIcon at 02:15 PM on September 14

The only time Serena got close to anybody is when she said to the tournament director that she had not said what she was accused of saying.

And then admitted that she'd misheard what the line-judge had told the umpire. Like I said upthread, if she hadn't gone back for second helpings, the umpire probably wouldn't have called over the line-judge, and it would have been for the Tour authorities to make the call after the match.

Players in all sports yell at refs, umps, judges all the time. A typical response is to ignore it, or dismiss it.

Well, no. What's "typical" depends upon the sport. In rugby, you can whack someone in the nads in a scrum, but if you so much as question the referee's authority, you'll be off to the sin-bin.

So, let's take a reckoning: you claimed that no-one could hear, when the on-court microphones and cameras made it very clear, and put CBS's editors to extra work. You've claimed that abusing the officials without punishment is standard practice, which simply isn't true. Oh, and you've basically said that enforcement of the rules should be dictated by the demands of top-ranking players.

posted by etagloh at 02:22 PM on September 14

Atheist:

Do not compare this with ticky tack calls in basketball.

Why not, when it was a ticky tack call -- worse than a ticky tack call? Why not call it what it was?

etagloh:

Oh, and you've basically said that enforcement of the rules should be dictated by the demands of top-ranking players.

Here's what I'd like:

1)Every single even-close-to-a-foot-fault is called in the Federer-del Potro final today. 2)Every single person who's taken the "the rules are the rules" line in this thread has to watch the entire match.

Watch some grand slam. Watch the feet. Think about what would happen.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:43 PM on September 14

LBB - I agree it was a ticky tack call. So what. They happen. Even if it was a bad call what excuse is that.

Serena's response only shows that regardless of someone's fame or money, class is something you either have or you don't and it doesn't automatically come the rest. Michael Jordan proved it this week as did Kanye West and did Serena Williams.

I guess I am just getting a little sick of these prima donna's acting like children, and I blame the paying public the most for tolerating it. If people stop buying what they are selling the minute they behave like this, then this stuff would happen a lot less.

posted by Atheist at 03:00 PM on September 14

So, let's take a reckoning: you claimed that no-one could hear, when the on-court microphones and cameras made it very clear, and put CBS's editors to extra work.

Very clear? Really? With pain staking effort we now know part of what was said - which, as it turns out, is not exactly what the lines judge thought she heard in the first place. You've claimed that abusing the officials without punishment is standard practice.

I have said no such thing. What I've said is that athletes in a lot of sports yell, and to that I think we should all agree the punishment for yelling is entirely subjective, and in this case the crux of my argument is that the circumstances are such that Serena was wronged here.

Oh, and you've basically said that enforcement of the rules should be dictated by the demands of top-ranking players.

Just as they are in every other sport. Yes, that I agree with. The Jordan Rules apply in this instance.

I still say Serena is the victim here

And you would be wrong.

Says you. And I'm sure others with agree with your opinion. But that doesn't make my opinion wrong. Just different.

posted by MW12 at 03:11 PM on September 14

Well it appears now that Serena has issued a statement apologizing and admitting she was WRONG, and behaved inapropriately. So while some here debate whether she was right or wrong or behaved poorly, she has settled the matter by basically admitting her own despicable behavior.

I say she has settled the argument at best or at the worse is just insincere and trying to save face. In any case she recognizes that she herself, does not want to be associated with this behavior.

posted by Atheist at 03:32 PM on September 14

No one said that she wasn't wrong. The argument was that the call was wrong, and that the punishment was excessive. But, it is easier to win an argument if you mischaracterize all the other arguments.

posted by bperk at 03:40 PM on September 14

The suggestion that calling foot faults would some how harm the game and should not be called is like saying service let balls (those that barely touch the net tape) should also not be called. It's silly, the rules are the rules and thus the purpose for officials and that is what defines the game. Sure some things are judgement calls but either a ball hits the net or not, a foot hits the line or not, or a ball is in or out. These rules must be in stone or there is no tennis only two people hitting balls at each other.

Sometimes the officials get it right and sometimes they don't. I suppose tennis is free to enact a replay and use technology if too many offical mistakes occur but in the end all sports resort to some offical making the final judgement and without that ultimate authority, there can be no fair sport. In effect, the offical ruling must ultimately be accepted, even when they are wrong. Most great players of sport recognize this and accept it even when a call goes against them. Every fighter knows the risk of allowing a fight to go to decision, and every football team knows to try to keep themselves out of a position that can allow a bad call, mistake or ticky tack penalty to cost them a game.

posted by Atheist at 03:44 PM on September 14

She's been given a $10,000 fine, but that's just for starters. It sounds like tennis officials are looking for the biggest can of whup-ass they can find.

posted by rcade at 03:57 PM on September 14

Atheist:

The suggestion that calling foot faults would some how harm the game and should not be called is like saying service let balls (those that barely touch the net tape) should also not be called. It's silly, the rules are the rules and thus the purpose for officials and that is what defines the game. Sure some things are judgement calls but either a ball hits the net or not, a foot hits the line or not, or a ball is in or out. These rules must be in stone or there is no tennis only two people hitting balls at each other.

If the rules are "in stone", then how come no one's been ticky-tackying about foot faults all along? How come you don't see this in competitive tennis? Maybe you think this is the way it ought to be...but you need to deal with the game the way it is played now, and consider the consequences of a sudden change in the way that rules are enforced. The way things are done now, a player lines up behind the baseline and then serves. In the course of serving, they may move around slightly -- it all depends on their serve. They don't take a great big galumphing step onto the court -- and they also don't stare at their own feet to make sure they don't touch that line. I will bet you can't find ten players in the US Open (if that) who could honestly tell you that they're absolutely certain they don't foot fault. If you started enforcing this rule in the way that you evidently want (and why now, all of a sudden?), you would mess with the serve of every player out there, as they now would have to make a conscious effort to not move the lead foot even slightly forward, or adjust to serving from a different distance. Is that really what you want?

I suppose tennis is free to enact a replay and use technology if too many offical mistakes occur

Replay technology has been available for years and has been in use at the US Open for four years now.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 04:09 PM on September 14

I don't know why the U.S. Open wants to choose this as their cause. The call was questionable, she was pissed, they gave her opponent match point in the freakin' semifinals, and they have fined her. What is the goal here? I thought they should have gone with the fines and let them play the match. But, they have already punished her pretty severely when they docked her match point. At one point is the punishment excessive?

posted by bperk at 04:12 PM on September 14

LBB: c'mon. I was responding to MW12's argument that Serena should sit out some tournaments until the organisers and officials start showing her the respect that her status demands. That kind of attitude poisons sports: no one player (or official) is bigger than the game. Might be worth asking back: who's going to be the next line judge to call a foot fault against Serena?

You already know what I think about the status of the foot fault. (You can also compare the latest Ashes series and the number of no-balls that were missed on wicket-taking balls.) Tennis has been pretty good at adopting technology to address the subjective, split-second decisions that go into line and net calls, and I'm sure that the head honchos are already thinking about ways to use replay for foot-fault calls.

posted by etagloh at 04:12 PM on September 14

Bperk - Yes several implied she was not wrong or at least was justified, as a matter of fact someone even said she was the victim, and another said the line judge was a coward. Whatever I say she was way out of line and so does she.

LLB - Actually I assume every player does adjust their service stance and is cautious of foot faults. I also do not know of a coach that would say to a young tennis player "don't worry they don't call foot faults". Why on earth does the tournament have an official knealing at the base line staring at the feet of the server to ensure there are no faults? Do you really think it should be ok to foot fault one inch but not three. "They don't take a great big galumphing step onto the court" mmm so it should be ok to take a small galumphing step onto the court? Are you actually trying to say that the officials have some sort of guideline to forgive small foot faults?

In tennis most players do set their toes behind the base line, and strike the ball before stepping onto the court which is the proper method. If the step on or over the line it is a foot fault. If you are suggesting that tournament players sometimes get away with faults I will agree, if you are suggesting that good players cannot play without faulting, or it would dramatically change professional tournament tennis, you are wrong. And yes I expect even amature players to learn to serve without making foot faults. Bowlers don't go over the line or electronic lights indicate fault, professional football players make great catches and are required not to even slightly touch to out of bounds line, tennis players are just as capable.

posted by Atheist at 04:36 PM on September 14

But that doesn't make my opinion wrong. Just different.

What would make your opinion right is some kind of sensible argument to support the idea Serena Williams got screwed by the loss of one point (and not even a point, a whatever the hell you call it that makes up a point in tennis) in a match she was about to lose badly anyway.

posted by yerfatma at 05:07 PM on September 14

First off, I'll take the blame (credit?) for being the one who said Serena was the victim here AND that the lines judge is a coward. I also stand behind my suggestion that Serena should sit out a match (not a tourney, but a match) if she discovers that this particular lines judge is working the court that day.

We're not (or at least we weren't) talking about how big of a foot fault Serena committed, or whether it's a penalty that should be stricken from the books - those are just things people here say to manipulate an argument in their favor. We're talking about the timing of a particular call that evidence coincidentally proves was not a violation at all.

And it wasn't just any match - it was the semifinals of a major championship. I've been racking my brain for an analogy that would work in another sport, but I've got nothing that comes remotely close. Serena was taking off her game at a critical moment in one of her biggest matches of this year, and the loss cost her millions of dollars. Now I'm not saying she should or would have necessarily won - but if she won that point, it'd have been deuce (30-30, same thing) and if she'd held serve she'd have forced a tiebreaker, and who knows how things would play out from there.

Costly mistake for Serena to blow up the way she did? Absolutely.

Costly mistake for that line judge to make? 1000%

posted by MW12 at 05:10 PM on September 14

What would make your opinion right is some kind of sensible argument to support the idea Serena Williams got screwed by the loss of one point (and not even a point, a whatever the hell you call it that makes up a point in tennis) in a match she was about to lose badly anyway.

I'm not so worried about Serena, but just about me. I was deprived of seeing at least two points. The first was the foot fault. The second was the penalty. The score was 6-5 at that point. Serena looked to be headed for a loss, but it would have been nice to watch it play out.

posted by bperk at 05:15 PM on September 14

"Serena was taking off her game at a critical moment in one of her biggest matches of this year"

I wonder if it is safe to say that by throwing a vulgar threating tantrum, and causing play to stop, it might be slightly unfair to her opponent and possibly taken Kim Clijsters off her game, a game that in fact was working and beating Williams. The incident happened at a time that was just as much a critical moment for Clijsters as it was for Williams and could have cost her just as much.

posted by Atheist at 06:49 PM on September 14

What would make your opinion right is some kind of sensible argument to support the idea Serena Williams got screwed by the loss of one point (and not even a point, a whatever the hell you call it that makes up a point in tennis) in a match she was about to lose badly anyway.

Pretty confident I've done just as requested: the foot fault call was horrible by all accounts, and at a critical juncture in a VERY CLOSE MATCH, it's more than a big deal.

Lose badly you say? I wouldn't assume but have to suspect you don't know tennis. Serving while down 4-6, 5-6 is the opposite of losing badly: it's as close as a match can possibly be. Odds are Serena would have held serve and forced a tiebreak. What happens next is anyone's guess.

As bperk is correctly suggesting, the tennis world was deprived of a potentially exciting ending - two points at the very least, and possibly an entire additional set - and that sucks for everyone: the players, the fans, the tournament officials, the sponsors - everyone lost on account of that call.

I wonder if it is safe to say that by throwing a vulgar threating tantrum, and causing play to stop, it might be slightly unfair to her opponent and possibly taken Kim Clijsters off her game.

Not nearly as unfair as if an "unconscionable call" had been made against her at such a critical juncture, as it was Serena.

posted by MW12 at 07:01 PM on September 14

LLB - Actually I assume every player does adjust their service stance and is cautious of foot faults.

You're wrong.

Shall we address the fact that the call was wrong? And that it was upheld? And how that might affect players?

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:44 PM on September 14

I wonder if it is safe to say that by throwing a vulgar threating tantrum, and causing play to stop, it might be slightly unfair to her opponent and possibly taken Kim Clijsters off her game, a game that in fact was working and beating Williams. The incident happened at a time that was just as much a critical moment for Clijsters as it was for Williams and could have cost her just as much.

Exactly. Which was the motivation for many of McEnroe's outbursts, he was trying to throw his opponent off their games. Not "emotional and fiery" but "cynical and cold blooded". This is not about Serena, who I have stated I support, present behaviour excepted, but about respect for the game, the officials, and your opponent.

Shall we address the fact that the call was wrong? And that it was upheld? And how that might affect players?

I haven't seen any unequivocal evidence that it was wrong. So I would not agree this is a "fact". As for the players, well, they are professionals in a sport which has about a dozen on-court officials making judgment calls every match. Somehow I think they will go on.

In any case, it seems to me notable there is so little comment on what can only be interpreted as (ok, let's call it "the fact of") her threatening gestures with her racket. She looks like she is going to lose it and hack into the officials head. I don't recall ever seeing such aggressive racket waving as in this match.

posted by rumple at 11:27 PM on September 14

I haven't seen any unequivocal evidence that it was wrong.

Oh jeez. I give up. You're not going to admit that it wasn't a foot fault no matter what you see. You win. It was a foot fault AND a homicide threat, and they should have taken Serena out back behind the barn and shot her.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:07 AM on September 15

NO, I give up, it was not a foot fault they should shoot the official and give Serena a freakin medal.

I have to say that it is educational that people are able to watch the replays and draw firm conclusions. I genuinely don't think you can tell either way. Maybe I should revisit on what basis I should form opinions.

posted by rumple at 10:06 AM on September 15

LBB - what exactly are you defending? Whether or not is was a foot fault is not the issue. It was a very close judgement call, right or wrong, what is there to defend about Serena's behavior. Not even she can justify it or is defending it. Plain and simple she lost it, she lost complete control of herself. Nobody has suggested she be taken and shot but lets call it what it was, a frustrated player losing their composure in a totally inappropriate way.

Your argument that if an official sees a foot fault, or thinks they see a foot fault, they should overlook it when in fact they are being paid to objectively call foot faults is insane. Objective officiating never should take into accout a match situation. The officail is morally bound to call them as they see 'em. Right or wrong, some sports have the ability to overrule mistakes and other sports choose not to. In either case the athletes must abide by the officiating or simply you have chaos.

If as you say foot faults are not important then maybe ATP officials should review and change the rules for tournament play. But as long as they feel the need to pay an official to watch for infractions and enforce the rule, what do you think should happen?

posted by Atheist at 12:53 PM on September 15

LBB - what exactly are you defending? Whether or not is was a foot fault is not the issue.

Why, because you're the boss of the discussion and you get to say what "the point" under discussion is? I don't think so.

Your argument that if an official sees a foot fault, or thinks they see a foot fault, they should overlook it when in fact they are being paid to objectively call foot faults is insane

I don't think you've understood a single thing that I or anyone else has said here about the way calls are made in tennis. Feel free to continue to ignore what's actually being said about the reality of how the game is played and lecture us all about The Way It Spozed To Be. It's rude to answer a question with a question; answer mine first before you post any of your own.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 10:11 PM on September 15

LLB - Actually I assume every player does adjust their service stance and is cautious of foot faults.

You're wrong.

Explain. Tennis players don't pay any attention whatsoever to the rules? So, they aren't taught at an early age, how to serve without foot faulting? They don't practice their serve a thousand times over learning not to line up over the line or drag their back foot too far before serving?

They don't practice not breaking a simple rule so many times that it is rarely, if ever called?

You're wrong. It's a fundamental part of learning tennis. You learn how to serve without foot faulting. You pay attention to where you are lined up. You pay attention to your back foot.

You also learn that telling an official that you swear you'd shove the ball down their throat is a bad thing to do. Even if they blew the call.

Feel free to continue to ignore what's actually being said about the reality of how the game is played and lecture us all about The Way It Spozed To Be. It's rude to answer a question with a question; answer mine first before you post any of your own.

It's rude to make comments like that.

posted by tselson at 11:50 PM on September 15

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