I have watched a lot of tennis. In fact, I’ve probably seen almost every grand slam in at least the past 10 years, thanks to my parents. My parents are huge tennis fans who actually planned our family vacations around Wimbledon, so that when we were tired of spending the day out on the beach, we could relax in a cool condo watching the world’s best tennis players on the most prestigious stage in the world. So yeah, I’ve seen a lot of tennis, and in all that watching, I can’t remember seeing anything like Serena Williams’ semifinals outburst towards a linesman, when she, with racket held up menacingly, said she’d like to shove the f***ing ball down the umpire’s f***ing throat.
Lots of commentary has focused on comparing Serena to he of the famous temper tantrums, John McEnroe. I say, the fact that they have to pull out a geezer (sorry dad!) for some sort of comparison really says all there is to say: modern tennis players don’t behave like that. Sure, Andy Roddick and Leyton Hewitt have been known to get a little verbal, but I don’t think I’ve EVER, in all my tennis-watching, seen them physically threaten an umpire in the same profane manner of Serena. It may just be because modern tennis players have huge endorsement deals that they don’t want to lose, but they do not lose their shit on the court and throw a match because of bad behavior. And if they do, they get fined, period.
Tennis is supposed to be a sport with class. You’re gracious and friendly to your opponents, you’re generous with your fans, and you try to avoid throwing your racket around or denigrating the umpires. And usually, I’ve always thought of both Venus and Serena, whom I love to watch, as very gracious players. Intense yes, but they’ve been in the sport since they were kids, and they know how to act like pros. Which is why I’m sure Serena’s outburst was just the product of stress and pressure and spotlights and frustration and adrenaline. It’s understandable, but it’s still unacceptable for a player of her caliber and experience. I am not saying that Serena owes me or anyone an apology. She didn’t hurt MY feelings. But perhaps sending a note of apology to the umpire would be an appropriate gesture in this situation.
Updated to include: Serena Williams has issued an apology on her blog.