Nothing New Under The Tennis Sun

By Tony McClean, BASN Editor In Chief
Updated: September 14, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Ct. (BASN) — The bizarre and surreal ending to Saturday night’s U.S. Open semifinal match between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters and it’s aftermath are still being felt around the tennis world.

Serena was fined $10,000 and has since issued an string of apologies. In fact, a Grand Slam administrator is determining if further investigation is required.

Predictably, many folks within and outside of tennis media circles think that a suspension should be in order.

While no one is condoning Serena’s actions (not to mention the questionable call itself), I find it very interesting that folks are trying to paint her as someone whose been a career malcontent.

Truth be told, if she does get a suspension it would be a somewhat of a mockery when you consider other notable meltdowns in recent Grand Slam play.

There are some that think Serena’s tirade at the U.S. Open was unique. In retrospect, it really wasn’t for a Grand Slam tournament

For example………

— In a 1979 U.S. Open match against John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase, in his waning years as a tennis star, turned the competition into a spectacle by constantly berating the head umpire. Nastase argued frequently until he finally defaulted.

— After losing a game in the 1987 U.S. Open on a “terrible call” to cut his lead to 5-4, Mr. McEnroe (again) sunk his teeth into 22-year-old head umpire Richard Ings. He berated Ings with a profanity-laced tirade – which included his now-signature line, “You cannot be serious!” – and continually pointed out which calls had been missed. McEnroe was hit with three code violation penalties, a $7,500 fine and a two-month suspension.

— In a fourth round match against Mikael Pernfors at the 1990 Australian Open, McEnroe (yep, him again) was disqualified for swearing at the umpire, supervisor, and referee. He was warned by the umpire for intimidating a lineswoman and then docked a point for smashing a racket. McBrat was apparently unaware that a new Code of Conduct, which had been introduced just before the tournament, meant that a third code violation would not lead to the deduction of a game but instead would result in immediate disqualification. So when McEnroe unleashed a volley of abuse at umpire Gerry Armstrong, he was defaulted.

— After disagreeing with several calls in the 1995 Wimbledon Championships, Tarango erupted at head umpire Bruno Rebeuh. He called Rebeuh “corrupt” and was tagged with even more penalties. Enraged, Tarango packed up his gear and marched off the court without completing the match. The incident became more bizarre when it was reported that Tarango’s wife had entered the fray following his exit, and slapped the umpire several times. The moment is now known in tennis circles as “The Slap Heard Round the World.”.

— Ranked No. 1 at the age of 18, Martina Hingis walked across the court at the 1999 French Open to examine the spot where the ball landed, garnering boos from the crowd. As she began to lose her grip on the match, she took a strategic — yet highly controversial — bathroom break and then capped off the lost match with two underhand serves.

Ironically, three of those tirades are part of a Tennis Channel show that originally aired last summer entitled ” Tennis Channel Best of 5: Temper Tantrums.”

When you also consider on Saturday that McEnroe was in the booth and also leading the charge of criticizing Serena, it makes you realize the real hypocrisy that exists within the sport.

Again, no one is condoning the act. But to make it out like it’s so unprecedented and so outrageous would be a bit much. Throw in the incredible timing of the “questionable at best” call, it’s a recipe for ugliness.