Serena Williams' Meltdown May Prove Costly

Serena Williams' profanity-laced outburst in the U.S. Open semifinals against Kim Clijsters cost her the match, and $10,000. Not since John McEnroe has there been such an outburst at a Grand Slam.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Tennis fans are buzzing about Serena Williams' obscenity-laced tirade at the U.S. Open semifinals on Saturday. It reminded a lot of people of John McEnroe's angry meltdowns. In case you missed it, Williams, the defending champion, was losing to Kim Clijsters. On a crucial point in the second set, a lineswoman called a foot fault on Serena's second serve.

Unidentified Woman: Foot fault.

Unidentified Man: Foot fault and that gives Kim Clijsters two match points.

SIEGEL: Serena Williams lost it. She went over to the lineswoman, shook her racquet at her, took a ball and verbally threatened her with it. A penalty point cost her the match and she was fined $10,000.

NPR's Elizabeth Blair takes a look at what else this might have cost you.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: It certainly cost Serena Williams the anger of fans when she walked off the court defeated, not by another player, but by an official's call.

(Soundbite of crowd)

BLAIR: For Richard Evans, who writes for Tennis Week, it was a sad sight, especially since Serena Williams is such a positive role model.

Mr. RICHARD EVANS (Editor-at-large, Tennis Week): It's very sad and I think what Serena said and the language she used is very disappointing, and I know she will be disappointed with herself.

BLAIR: Williams did look disappointed in the press conference just following the match, but many commentators jumped on the fact that she didn't seem all that remorseful. On Sunday, the day after the match, she issued a statement acknowledging that she handled the situation poorly. It wasn't until today that she apologized to the lineswoman, to Kim Clijsters and to her own fans.

Ms. SALLY JENKINS (Sports Writer, The Washington Post): Let's face it, abuse of an umpire is just about the cardinal sin in any sport.

BLAIR: Sally Jenkins is a sports writer for The Washington Post. She says one reason there's been such a vehement reaction to Serena Williams' outburst is because tennis seems like such a genteel sport.

Ms. JENKINS: Because, I mean, I've seen far worse on NBA courts, I mean, my gosh. It's funny because tennis is such a hushed sport and, you know, it's a culture of silence and stillness, in a way, between the points. And so when you do have an explosion like that it just seems louder somehow.

BLAIR: But Sally Jenkins does not think that will have a negative impact on Serena Williams' career.

Ms. JENKINS: It's a black eye. She'll put a beef steak on it and the swelling will go down in about a week.

BLAIR: Maybe not even that long. Today, she and her doubles partner and sister, Venus Williams, won the U.S. Open Women's Doubles.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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