NEW YORK - Her doubles championship brought some closure Monday to what has been an awkward, tumultuous U.S. Open for Serena Williams.
Time to celebrate. Time to move on. Maybe even time to make amends with the line judge she unloaded on during that ugly finish to her semifinal loss two nights ago.
“I would like to give her a big ol’ hug,” Williams said.
Williams and sister Venus teamed up for a 6-2, 6-2 victory over defending champions Cara Black and Liezel Huber to win their 10th Grand Slam doubles title, and first at Flushing Meadows since 1999. Not surprisingly, the sisters answered very few questions about doubles when it was over.
During a post-match interview on the court, ESPN2’s Patrick McEnroe prodded Serena about her profane outburst at the end of her loss to Kim Clijsters and its aftermath. Williams had issued an apology shortly before the doubles match, saying she is “a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I’m wrong.”
It was a more contrite statement than the one she released the day before — when she was socked with a $10,000 fine for acting in a “threatening manner,” according to tournament director Jim Curley. But when McEnroe tried to ask her “what clicked in your head” that led to the new statement, the crowd started booing.
“I think what the crowd is saying is, ‘Patrick, let’s move on,”’ Venus Williams said.
Venus also played the role of protective big sister during the news conference, where questions included what Serena did, how she felt, who she owed apologies to and what she would do next.
“You know, everyone is human,” Venus said.
Serena said she didn’t agree with the call from Saturday night but bore no ill will toward the line judge, who did not work the tournament either Sunday or Monday.
“I don’t think my foot touched the line in that call,” Williams said. “Looking back on it, I think the lady did the best that she could. She was just doing her job. I guess at the time, she probably saw it as what it was. You know, she was just doing her best.”
The one thing Serena didn’t fess to is what, exactly, she said to the line judge who called the foot fault that sparked the rant, which led to her being docked a point on match point.
“I was in the heat of the moment,” she said. “You can see it was a lot of action. I don’t remember several points in the match today, let alone anything I might have said a couple days ago.”
For a refresher, she could simply go to YouTube, where videos of the expletive-laden onslaught were still high on the most-viewed list, with one of the replays generating 1.2 million hits and counting.
Officials from the Grand Slam tournaments are also interested in the replays. They were combing through audio from on-court mics and different TV feeds as part of an investigation to find out exactly what she said, and whether there should be more than the penalty she has already received.
Williams’ apology might have been viewed as an attempt to seek some sort of clemency from tennis officials, who could take back the $350,000 check she earned for reaching the semifinals, or suspend her.
But Williams didn’t view her latest statement as a more contrite version of what she sent originally — only a chance to put it up on her Web site for wider readership, and a chance to apologize to Clijsters, the U.S. Open champion, who was clearly bewildered by the bizarre ending.
“I definitely think an apology was warranted,” Williams said. “You know, I just felt like the other one was an apology, as well. This one I wanted to make sure that I also congratulated Kim on her job that she did, and also to just everyone else.”
As for the tennis — it was an easy victory. Serena kept a noticeable sliver of green between her foot and the baseline whenever she served. She didn’t get called for a foot fault.
The sisters won three of the year’s four majors. They were playing the world’s top-ranked team — proof that rankings have more to do with playing lots of events, which the Williamses don’t.
“They’re bigger and stronger than us,” Huber said. “They served bigger than us and you could see it all today.”
Serena got plenty of support from the few thousand fans who came to Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch the tournament wrap up on a Monday for the second straight year. Before the first point, one fan yelled, “Serena, you go girl!” Then another said, “We love you Serena!” Her father, Richard, sat in the front row, almost even with the baseline where the infamous call was made. Her mother, Oracene Price, was in the family box, sitting next to Serena’s agent.
After match point, Serena hugged her sister and got a warm burst of applause. Williams said she has received an outpouring of support via e-mail, though the true test of how this affects her image figures to play out over weeks and months, not days.
“I think the whole point of learning from your mistakes is not to do the same thing,” she said. “I definitely would, I think, have a more professional way of voicing my opinion. I want to get another bad line call, so I can get some more practice and see how I do.”
Watching Rafa Nadal churn his way through the claycourt season over the past few weeks, it seems nothing much has changed since his French Open triumph a year ago despite a lengthy injury layoff.
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