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13-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams is not just a good tennis player, she is easily the best of her generation, quite possibly even in the top 10 of all time. However, there is no denying the fact that she has a vile temper which often gets the better of her.
Case in point was the 2009 US Open semi-finals where she verbally abused a lines-judge and was subsequently handed an $82,500 fine and also placed on a 3-year probation where she could face a ban should she commit a similar future offence. In the eyes of most tennis fans and pundits, Serena's outburst in Sunday night's showpiece women's singles final was perhaps not as 'bad', but wreaked of poor sportsmanship and her behaviour towards the Chair Umpire was not just unwarranted, but also completely unacceptable.
However, unlike the 2009 decision to impose a hefty fine and suspended sentence which was taken by impartial advisors representing each of the four Grand Slams at a later point in time, the USTA sped up the process to pass judgment on the violation in consultation with the Grand Slam committee director Bill Babcock. The USTA in their wisdom decided that Serena's behaviour was not a 'serious offence' and fined her $2,000 out of her tournament winnings of $1.4 million.
Losing a superstar attraction like Serena would have been a major blow to any tournament, especially a Grand Slam, where the women are at present struggling to compete with the men in terms of star power. Having Serena active and playing is good for tennis, however, at what cost? Surely if there had not been a previous offence, where a ban would have been at risk, Serena would have landed a heavier fine. Also, aren't the USTA setting a terrible precedence by letting such behaviour go unpunished. At this rate, tennis players might as well make a $2,000 deposit at the start of each match and have a right old go at the Officiating Staff right through!
At some stage, officials, a lot of whom pay top money in appearance fees to have superstars play at events, need to understand that the sport is not for sale. And perhaps most crucially the players need to understand that the Umpire is not a glorified score announcer, and just let them do their job. Serena Williams, a terrific tennis player, outstepped her boundaries for the second time, and has virtually walked away scot free.
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