Kim Clijsters reached the US Open final after beating an enraged Serena Williams 6-4, 7-5 on Saturday in a contest that disintegrated into chaos after the American was handed a point penalty on match point.
With the Belgian on the brink of victory, defending champion Williams was called for a foot-fault on a second serve to go match point down.
Fired up by the judgement, Williams erupted in anger and yelled at the lineswoman who reported her for verbal abuse.
Having already received a warning earlier in the match for smashing a racket, Williams was handed an automatic point penalty for a second violation which gave Clijsters the match and a date in the finals with Danish ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki.
”It was not a default, it was a point penalty that happened to be on match point. She had had an earlier warning for racket abuse,” tournament referee Brian Earley told reporters.
”She was called for a foot fault … and she said something to a line umpire and it was reported to the chair and that resulted in a point penalty.”
Earley would not go into what Williams said, adding only: ”It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.”
Williams was serving at 5-6, 15-30 in the second set when she was called for the foot fault.
Astounded by the verdict and with her eyes bulging, Williams immediately saw red and threateningly marched up to the official. She waved her racket ominously and thrust the ball into the lineswoman’s face as she launched into a tirade.
”I swear to God I’m … going to take this … ball and shove it down your … throat, you hear that? I swear to God,” Williams told the line-judge.
The woman, clearly taken aback by Williams’s outburst, walked straight to umpire Louise Engzell, who summoned Earley on to court as jeers started to ring around a half-filled Arthur Ashe Stadium.
With Williams joining the group at the bottom of the umpire’s chair, she was heard telling the lineswoman: ”I never said I would kill you, are you serious?”
After consulting Earley, Engzell announced the second seed had been given a point penalty and awarded the match to Clijsters, who stood on the other side of the net looking bewildered while the fans were hushed into stunned silence.
”I didn’t threaten [her]. I don’t remember anymore [what I said], to be honest. I was in the moment. And, you know, everyone’s fighting for every point. It was a really crucial point,” said Williams.
Asked if the lineswoman deserved an apology, the second seed added: ”An apology? From me? Well, how many people yell at linespeople?
”Players, athletes get frustrated. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that happen.
”All year I’ve never been foot faulted, and then suddenly in this tournament they keep calling foot faults. I said something that I guess they gave me a point penalty for. Unfortunately it was on match point.”
The bizarre ending to the semifinal, which had been delayed by 24 hours due to rain, denied Clijsters the chance to celebrate a win she truly deserved after she had outclassed the American for most of the 91-minute contest.
”It’s unfortunate that a match that I was playing so well at to end that way,” said Clijsters, who became the first mother to reach a grand slam final since Evonne Goolagong achieved the feat at Wimbledon in 1980.
”Obviously, I still to this point am a little confused about what happened out there, just because I was so focused.
”As I started to get ready for the return I saw Serena talking to the lineswoman over there … [but] I was obviously too far away to hear what was going on.
”I was trying to win that last point. Things ended a little bit different than I expected.”
The Belgian, a wildcard entrant as she is playing in only her third tournament after taking a two-year sabbatical to start a family, took only 35 minutes to do something no other woman had managed over the fortnight — take a set off Williams.
The 27-year-old American reacted by hurling her racket to the cement with such force that it turned into a mangled wreck. Not satisfied with her first effort, she went on to slam it against the net post as she headed back towards her seat during the changeover — incurring her first warning of the night.
Little did she know this burst of anger would come back to haunt her just 56 minutes later. – Reuters