Serena Williams wrote a post on globalgrind.com (“The World According to Hip Hop”) on Wednesday with the title: “To Be Honest, I Believe I Reached My Boiling Point.” This is appropriate, as her open letter isn’t so much about the record-setting fine she recieved due to misbehavior at this year’s US Open. It’s more about her releasing a career’s worth of pent up frustration over a number of wrongs she’s endured over the years.
I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Even before the “outburst” at the US Open, Serena’s obviously been on edge. Remember how she threatened Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez when the Spaniard cheated at this year’s French Open? (If not, click here.) Then there was the trash talk about the WTA’s ranking system and the fines she said she’d recieve if she pulled out of tournaments due to injury. I’m sure she wrangled with the WTA quite a bit over the clause in the new Roadmap, that could have penalized her for boycotting Indian Wells. She’s been simmering for so long it was either boil dry or blow her top. She chose the latter. And she paid the price: $92,000.
And now she wants to let off some steam (click here for the original):
As the world seems to know or for those who don’t I want to speak about my recently dubbed “outburst” and how I feel.
“I have recently been fined by the Grand Slam Committee of the ITF (International Tennis Federation) over 82 thousand dollars for getting mad and using the “F-bomb” at a line Judge.
To clear things up FIRST I was NOT fined 82 thousand dollars. I was fined 92 thousand dollars! I paid 10 thousand dollars on site immediately after the U. S. Open. So for the record, I was fined $92,000 not $82,000! The biggest fine EVER in tennis.”
To clarify some more, according to the Washington Post, Serena Williams was fined a total of $175,000, including the $10,000 she paid at the tournament. The final amount was halved, assuming she doesn’t have another melt down. Serena could have received up to $1 million in penalties according to the sport’s code of conduct and/or have been banned from one or more Major tournaments. Serena earned $350,000 for making it to the US Open singles semifinals and an additional $420,000 with her sister for winning the doubles championship. The current fine is just over 1% of her record-making $6.5 million in prize money this year. (Click here for more, including Serena’s official statement.)
Moving on – Serena writes that the foot-fault-calling lines judge “understood” her emotions and was “extremely supportive” of her after the incident:
Also for all those that don’t know, I felt incredibly bad, and miserable for losing my cool, and most importantly not representing the person I really am spiritually and the role model I want to be to my young fans. I have been a very feisty player all my life, but when the time came for me to be calm and cool, I did not exercise a mild temper. How I regret not being a better role model and person to all of my fans. I apologized to my fans and even wrote a personal letter to the lines woman with my apologies. She understood as she often witnesses this as it is not uncommon in my sport, or any other sport. She was extremely supportive and said that she did not think any further actions should be taken against me.
Now we get to what this letter is really about – the 2004 US Open quarterfinal that Serena lost to Jennifer Capriati after suffering a number of horrendous line calls. Serena is obviously still really pissed off about it:
A few years ago in a most important match being watched my millions; I was blatantly cheated and robbed of a US Open title by yet another official. I was again on the wrong side of not one or two, but several other bad calls. This incident however changed tennis. Because of what was incorrectly done to me, the whole sport of tennis adapted new technology for a player to challenge the calls lines persons make if the player feels they were wronged. I was expected to take solace in the fact even though I lost the U.S Open title (a dream I’ve been working for since I was 2 years old). At least others won’t be wronged in the future. I am always happy for the next person. I always am. I received apologies from the USTA, the Lines Official, and the Head of the US Open. However I don’t recall EVER receiving a note, a phone call, a letter even a text from anyone at the Grand Slam Committee ITF apologizing about the wrong and disastrous call one of THEIR officials made.
And Serena’s still mad about Indian Wells, too, where she was savagely booed in 2001 while playing Kim Clijsters (hmmm) in the final:
When I was a teenager I was booed by an entire packed stadium at Indian Wells. In my new book “On the Line” [pitch alert!] I talk about how I remember crying on every changeover in the towel. Praying and wishing I could lose and the match would just be done with. When the match was over I thanked the crowd those that cheered for me, and even those that did not. Looking back I am still amazed how I remained so calm and positive, and even managed to come out on top.
Serena brings up another point: when a player screws up, she gets a fine and a lot of public humiliation. When an official messes up – arguably costing the player a major title, a heap of prize money and even a childhood dream – all the player gets is an apology:
The fact is every professional athlete gets wronged in one way or another. And every athlete gets upset. We have been working, sacrificing, missing out on numerous things, things we will never get back or experience for the sake of our careers. For the sake of that one moment in time where we have a chance to shine through.
Imagine for 20 years working day in, day out, sacrificing on countless things to get this job, that will make all your hard work and endless efforts worthwhile. Try to imagine having that promotion in one moment being taken away from you because of a slight over sight, by someone overseeing your work. 20 years gone away. Time to start over, dust yourself off and try again. You work harder make positive changes. It happens again.
“Dust yourself off” you say. “Try again”
You do just that. You work even harder than before, spend longer hours. Then it happens yet again. Another slight oversight.
Serena doesn’t say that there’s a conspiracy against her, she just admits that she’s wondered about it:
Well this is what happened to me, and to be honest I believe I reached my boiling point. After yet ANOTHER wrong call I began to wonder- Was I being “overlooked” or wrongly judged on purpose!??? Is this being done to keep me from achieving my best? Why does this keep happening at the same place?
Conspiracy theories aside, I’d argue that in this particular case, the call really didn’t cost Serena the match. A point penalty technically did her in, not to mention Clijsters’s killer game. But the letter isn’t really concerned about these technicalities. This is a first-class vent, not a legal document:
Throughout my career I have remained calm. But I guess I finally reached my breaking point. A point I should have never allowed myself to get to. Everything seemed to have surfaced. As you know, losing my cool cost me over 92 thousand dollars. 92 thousand dollars! This is more than most people make in a year. 92 thousand dollars!
And $17,000 more than what she spent redecorating her house! (click here)
Serena then launches into a provocative argument re: sexism and fines.
Answer this: Why is it another player who also lost HIS cool not to a line judge – like I did – but to the main officiating judge- using the same “f word” why was HE only fined 10 thousand dollars. Was what I did 10 times worse than what he did?!
Who is she talking about? At first I thought it was Federer, for telling off Jake Garner in the final, but he was only fined $1,500.
There is another HE who was fined less than half of what I was fined after someone in his camp actually physically ATTACKED an official!!!!
That HE is Jeff Tarango, of course, who was fined $63,000 and banned from two Major tournaments by the ITF after walking off the court at Wimbledon in protest of what he saw as “corrupt” officiating. (His wife at the time slapped the offending the chair umpire in the face.)
What about the famous HE who made arguing with officials “cool”. Cool for “MEN” I guess.
Is it because they are all HE’s and not a SHE like me?
All in good time, Serena. John McEnroe was called McBrat for a reason – and not because people liked him. I’m sure someday you, too, will be doing your own slightly pathetic reenactment of your “I’d take this ball and. . .” catchphrase in front of a crowd of old fogies at some Cancun resort.
Then Serena brings the 1st amendment into it – so wait, is she writing a brief?
It is indeed a massive difference. Being American I guess the 1st amendment, freedom of speech, does not apply to a SHE in this case? In any event the Grand Slam Committee, ITF and its staff did not hesitate to call, send a note, text, nor write letters after this incident. Ironic is it not?
I don’t mind being fined. If I did wrong I accept the repercussions. All I ask for is to be treated equal.
Now this is a sticky subject that raises many difficult questions: By what standard is Serena being measured? When does cussing out an official go from a $1,500 fine in Roger Federer’s case to $175,000 in Serena’s case – the full amount she’ll be fined if she commits another “major offense” in the next two years? Is it a tone of voice, is it timing, is it gestures more than words? Is it a threat, however rhetorical, instead of an insult, however crude? (Jimbo’s “you’re an abortion” comes to mind.) And what constitutes a “major offense”, anyway? Bill Babcock of the Grand Slam Committee says that it’s any conduct deemed to be “aggravated behavior” or “conduct detrimental to the game.” In other words, you know it when you see it. So it’s subjective – and unlike Hawkeye you can’t measure the margin of error in millimeters.
But I think what we have to remember is that Serena wasn’t defaulted – she lost the match due to a point penalty (she’d earned a warning for smashing her racquet earlier in the match.) No matter what her sex, faith, race or creed, what she did definitely deserved a point penalty. But again, Serena’s letter is about much more than a single point – in the score or in time – it is about the entirety of Serena Williams’s life in tennis. She has a point to make and some scores to settle. It’s personal.
Serena tries to end her screed on a positive note:
When I was fined the 92K, I asked to see if I could donate some of it to different schools, and programs I’m involved in. My request was denied. So, I decided to match the fine by raising money and donating an additional 92K to my 2nd school that I am opening up in Africa, as well as to schools that I am helping here in the United States. I also want to educate women about what I learned from this whole experience. How we as women are still treated as less than equal. I am going to turn this 92K into a positive!!! And I have decided to call it Serena’s 92K mission!!! Go to Serenawilliams.com to learn more about my 92K mission.
Mission? As in Mission Skincare? Sorry, that was too easy. No, Serena’s actually raising money for the Serena Williams Foundation. I’m sure you’ll get a Tweet about it soon. Or click here to visit her website.
So what do you think of all this? I’d do a poll but it’s just too damn complicated. I just hope that Serena feels a little better.