Serena: 'I want to sincerely apologize'
NEW YORK -- Serena Williams set about repairing self-inflicted damage to her image Monday, first winning the U.S. Open doubles title with her sister and then taking on the more complex task of explaining her actions and feelings in the wake of her shocking on-court outburst in Saturday's singles semifinal.
I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act.” -- Serena Williams
"I just really wanted to apologize sincerely, because I'm a very prideful person and I'm a very intense person and a very emotional person," Williams said in the postmatch news conference with sister Venus alongside. "I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended." She said she had been humbled by the experience.
U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Tim Curry at first tried to limit reporters' questions to Monday's events, but about halfway through the session, Williams overruled him and said she would field any question.
Williams said she would welcome the opportunity to speak directly to the line judge who called the foot fault that triggered her abusive behavior -- a Japanese woman whose name has been withheld by the USTA -- and "give her a big ol' hug."
The incident was atypical for Serena, who like sister Venus generally does not argue line calls or otherwise initiate on-court disputes. She pledged she would not allow herself to lose control again.
"I think the whole point of learning from your mistakes is not to do the same thing," Serena Williams 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. That would be awesome. OK, this is my one moment here. Yeah, so I probably would even smile."
The Williams sisters defeated the top-ranked team of Liezel Huber of the U.S. and Zimbabwe's Cara Black in the U.S. Open doubles final in routine fashion, 6-2, 6-2, their third Grand Slam doubles title this season and the 10th of their career.
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Williams, who had already received an initial warning for crushing her racket after losing the first set, was serving to stay in the match when she was called for a foot fault on a second serve. She berated the lineswoman, cursing and waving her racket, and was assessed a code violation that prompted a mandatory point penalty on match point, ending the contest. Had Williams been formally defaulted from the match, she would not have been able to play in the doubles final.
The 27-year-old Williams initially issued a statement Sunday that fell short of a direct apology. There were widespread calls for her to say something more contrite, as icons of the sport including Martina Navratilova weighed in over the weekend. Monday morning, 36 hours after the on-court confrontation, Williams -- through the USTA -- released an "amended" statement she said was intended to clarify her feelings.
"I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst," the statement said. "I'm a woman of great pride, faith and integrity, and I admit when I'm wrong. I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act -- win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner."
During the trophy ceremony, emcee and ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe gave Serena two chances to elaborate on those written statements. She deflected the questions, and the sparse crowd booed when McEnroe asked a second follow-up. Venus then leaned into the microphone and said, "I think what the crowd is saying is, 'Patrick, let's move on.'"
Serena Williams was fined $10,500 by the U.S. Open, the maximum allowable financial penalty "on site," according to USTA senior director of public relations Chris Widmaier. U.S. Open tournament director Jim Curley said the fine was for Williams' "threatening manner" and added in an interview that the tournament considered -- and decided against -- preventing Williams from participating in the doubles final.
Another shoe could drop in the form of additional fines or a suspension from the next Grand Slam event. International Tennis Federation executive director Bill Babcock will review the incident and recommend whether further action should be taken by the Grand Slam committee, which is made up of representatives of all four majors. He told ESPN.com the process, which includes interviewing the parties involved, probably will take several weeks.
Williams could face forfeiture of prize money and/or suspension from one or more Grand Slams. The only recent precedent for the latter was in 1995 when American player Jeff Tarango cursed out a chair umpire at Wimbledon in midmatch and stormed off the court. He was fined $63,000 and suspended for two Grand Slam tournaments.
Widmaier cited privacy reasons for the decision not to release the line judge's name, and said that she had left the country without incident. "She must have been a well-ranked line judge, or she wouldn't have been working a Grand Slam semifinal," he said.
Widmaier told ESPN.com that Williams' fine money will be channeled into the Grand Slam development fund, which finances grassroots tennis around the world.
The doubles match marked Serena Williams' first appearance at the U.S. Open grounds since the incident. She appeared on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony in Manhattan Sunday night and introduced the artist known as Pink with a reference to her own situation.
"Because she'll be soaring high above Radio City's stage, she won't have to worry about stepping on any lines," Williams said.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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2009 U.S. Open
Women's singles: Kim Clijsters, Belgium
Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
Men's doubles: Lukas Dlouhy, Czech Republic and Leander Paes, India
Women's doubles: Serena and Venus Williams, United States
Mixed doubles: Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott, United States
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