Fire On Clay: Serena Williams rallies to beat a “cheat” and a laggard of an umpire

Will to power: Serena comes back from a contentious one set deficit to win the 3rd round of the French Open 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 .

Will to power: Serena comes back from a contentious one set deficit to win the 3rd round of the French Open 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 .

She almost wilted under the pressure of a less-than-honest opponent and a laggard of an umpire,  not to mention breathing problems she experienced in the last set, but Serena being Serena reached deep within and found something with which to defeat a listless Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in the 3rd round of the 2009 French Open. The bad call at 2-2 in the first set involved a shot that Serena fired straight at the Spaniard as she stood near the net after executing a nifty drop shot. The ball recotcheted off her arm as she recoiled defensively and shot  past Serena for what appeared to be a winning return.  The ostensible return and point was not valid, because the ball had come in touch with Martina Sanchez’s hand. The umpire,  Emmanuel Joseph,  who had ostensibly not seen the body contact gave the point to a strangely reticent Martinez Sanchez even as Serena protested. The fact that Serena had even apologized for hitting her opponent should have given the umpire pause for cause. Under the circumstance he should have gotten out of his chair and held a mini conference with the players. Worst case scenario? Joseph would have had to check  Martinez Sanchez’s arm. There should have been some kind of mark there. (Serena does not hit like a girl.)

That bad call clearly fired Serena up while putting the umpire, Emmanuel Joseph, and her opponent on the defensive psychologically. Yes, such challenges have an effect on a mental level and umpires are not immune to it,  especially the  ones who may remember what happened to the lady umpire who gave Serena a series of bad line calls in a the quarter final of the 2005 U.S. Open. (The offending umpire  got suspended for the rest of the tournament.) For your own information Emmanuel Joseph is the same umpire who so enraged another American player Andy Roddick at the Australian open in January of 2008 that Andy called him names.

“You’re an idiot,” yelled the inflamed Roddick before appending a caustic aside: “Stay in school, kids, or you’ll end up being an umpire.”

The Rub: Is there something about Serena that brings out a win-at-all-costs attitude in her opponents? Or on the other hand is there something about her celebrity and  “will to power” that provokes some kind of power struggle with certain umpires?

Commentator Mary Carillo clearly felt bad for Serena in that first set. The ball had clearly hit Martinez Sanchez as several replays would show.  Martinez Sanchez should have owned up to it, especially after the umpire had awarded her the point. She didn’t. And the umpire on his part, should have hauled his fat rump out of that chair and held conference with the players. He could have very well  forced the issue by asking  Sanchez if the ball had hit her? He did not.  What gives here? Truth, fairness, or perhaps a lack of surreptitious vindictiveness on the part of a dime-a-dozen umpires who have it in for millionaire stars?

Excuse Our French: The Roland Garros fans could clearly go screw themselves in their un-perfumed derrieres. We are specifically talking about the ones who could be heard booing Serena as she tried to talk to the umpire about his wrong call. These fans don’t even deserve a second chance after the Justine Henin debacle in which she raised a hand just before a Serena serve. (Serena dumped the serve out, but a judge who had not seen the raised hand gave the point to Henin – who, on her part, did not own up to raising her hand just before the serve. The fans booed during the challenge. Screw ’em!)

The History: The Williams sisters have a shady history when it comes to competing against each other in their long careers from Wimbledon in 2000 to Indian Wells  in 2001, but this does not justify the bum rap they seem to be getting from umpires and crowds during questionable calls.

Wimbledon 2001 is remembered for Serena’s inexplicably lack-luster showing against her big sister and Indian Wells 2001 gave the family a big black eye when Venus withdrew from a much anticipated shootout with her sister,  minutes before match time.  She claimed injury as the cause but the fans would clearly have none of it.  Days later, Serena would be booed all the way to the trophy ceremony. The sisters have not played Indian Wells ever since, but we are pretty sure they have learned their lessons from that and the preceding Wimbledon. Their parents  have grown up in tandem with them as business managers and coaches.  If bygones can’t be bygones, then some people are caught up in a state of arrested development, if not worse …. (Read “Why is racism and sexism against Venus and Serena Williams ignored in tennis?” by Lloyd Douglas) And the for the best lysis on the sister-sister rivalry, read Greg Couch’s FanHouse article “Sister Act Rules Wimbledon Again.”

The Post Game Interview: Those of us who had watched the game shenanigans that went on this morning were waiting for the post game interview. Winning the game from a 1-0 set deficit was certainly a good dose of poetic justice, but that was besides the point. Someone needed to call it like it is, and Serena did not disappoint:

Said Serena Williams:

“The ball did touch her 100% on her arm. The rules of tennis is when the ball hits your body, then it’s out of play. You lose a point automatically. So the ball hit her body, and therefore, she should have lost the point instead of cheating. I hit that ball rather hard. She knew that ball hit her.

“It was clearly my point, and it was like, no way. I would never do that. I’ve never done that. I’ve never sunk low, and I would never do that to anyone on this tour and I never have. I’ve always been a really clean player and a good player, and it doesn’t take that to win.

“I looked at her dead in the eye. I said, Why? Just be honest if the ball hit you or not. I mean, Hello. It totally hit her. She was just like – she wouldn’t even look at me. She looked down, and I just have no respect for anybody who can’t play a professional game and just be really professional out here. Because that’s all I’ve ever been was be extremely professional to anyone I’ve ever played.” (Serena Williams – Post Game Comments)

One of the reporters, as if to press the point, asked her if she was accusing her opponent of cheating to which Serena retorted, “What would you call it?”

To the Serena Williams detractors, like the Associated Press reporter, who routinely crawl out of the woodwork when the Williams sisters stand their ground, you don’t have much of a leg to stand on on this one. Serena showed amazing toughness in coming from behind to nullify a psychologically debilitating bad call by the umpire.  She showed classy reserve in coming to the net and normally shaking the hand of an opponent who had just tried to rip her off.  At the end of that bad day at the office she was fully entitled to call it like it is. In blasting Martinez Sanchez as a “cheat” she was also blasting the limp noodle umpire,  Emmanuel Joseph, for not making the right calls. Martinez Sanchez deserved Serena’s  salvo, and so did he.

Detractors, in an out of the press box, can call it whatever they want. We call it a shot across the bow.  The fact that  Martinez Sanchez, on top of denying the ball hit her, chooses to say as little as she can, and only when pressed at that,  speaks volumes about this and her own mental processes.

“I just put my racket up (in defence) and the ball hit it,” says the 26-year-old Spaniard who is ranked 43rd in the world.  “I don’t want to talk about this,” adding: “I put the racket, and the ball, it was in, so it goes point for me.” (Martinez Sanchez – Post Game Comments)

Saying of Serena’s comments, “I don’t like to comment about this. It’s a stupid comment”, just doesn’t cut it in our books. Where is the outrage of  a person who has been wrongfully accused in all of this?  There is nothing ambiguous or stupid about being called a cheat. Capische?

copyright© 2009

One response to “Fire On Clay: Serena Williams rallies to beat a “cheat” and a laggard of an umpire

  1. I love her so much!!..


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