Michael Emmett: “Was Serena Out of Line?”

Written by: Michael Emmett


***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***


Before I delve deep into the heart of the major incident at the Women’s final on Sunday at the US Open let me state – conclusively – that Serena was going to lose the match regardless of how that controversial decision was handled.

Stosur was better.

Stosur outplayed Serena on the biggest stage in the biggest event and was clearly deserving of the victory.

It was an upset of sweeping proportion, only the third title of Stosur’s career.

“I’m still kind of speechless,” Stosur said more than an hour later. “I can’t believe I won this tournament. I did believe I had a chance to win. Two wins over her in the past made me think it was possible.”

For those that missed the electrifying moment during the first game of the second set here’s what happened:

Serena had just cracked a vicious forehand – packed with anger – into Stosur’s backhand corner at 30-40. There was no doubt it was going to win her the point, but she bellowed “Come on!” milliseconds before the ball nicked Stosur’s racquet frame.  Everyone who witnessed the event – and those who saw 100s of replays on television would agree that Serena was going to win the point.  The score should have been deuce.  But now with the umpire’s ridiculous decision – Stosur had a critical break of serve in the all important first game of the second set.

This according to the rules is a violation of tennis’ intentional hindrance rule, the equivalent of unsportsmanlike conduct in this genteel sport.

According to Head Referee Brian Earley, Chair umpire Eva Asderaki correctly awarded the point to Stosur, who merely got a racquet on the ball.

I Disagree – the call was not correct!!

According to ITF rules, the chair umpire has the latitude not to make the call if he or she thinks the hindrance was unintentional.  And there is no doubt the scream from Williams was unintentional.  Even the Serena bashers out there would have to agree with this.  It was a nit-picky call that was not necessary.

For those that heard commentator John McEnroe dissect the chain of events that surrounded ‘the incident’ – I agree wholeheartedly with his analysis.  In a worst case scenario they should have played a let.  But for Stosur to win the game this way – is just flat out wrong.

Did Serena act like a baby?  Maybe so!

Did Serena do anything wrong?  Definitely not!

Serena was clearly frustrated and she made a point of letting the umpire know.  The fact that she received a code violation for verbal abuse by Chair Umpire Eva Asderaki at the conclusion of the first game of the second set is shocking.  This so called tirade was nothing and it was made out to be much worse than it actually was.  Serena acted like an angel compared to her last loss on this court 2 years ago.

Serena, who famously threatened to stuff a ball down the throat of the lineswoman who called a foot fault that ended her semifinal match with Kim Clijsters, was close to a tantrum — but stopped short of the expletives that surfaced two years ago. She was, after all, in the last match of a two-year probation.

“Aren’t you the one who screwed me over last time here?” she asked Asderaki, perhaps confusing her with then-chair umpire Louise Engzell. “Do you have it out for me? That’s totally not cool.”

Later, as her frustration escalated, she defended her right to vent, saying, “We’re in America last time I checked.” In a final jab, she called Asderaki “unattractive inside.”

Serena did not shake her hand after the match as is the custom.

All of this can be classified as petulant and immature but nothing that is against the rules – certainly not something worthy of a “code violation.”

Let me say it again – SERENA DID NOTHING WRONG!!!

Can someone please tell me why she was fined $2,000.00 dollars by Head Referee Mr. Earley?

What a joke!

Andy Roddick’s abuse of Brian Earley earlier in the week was far more severe and nothing ever came of that uncomfortable situation.

She acted like a brat and made a point of showboating to Asderaki but did nothing to deserve a code violation.

She did not swear.  She did not verbally attack the chair umpire – everything she said was carefully thought out.  She was definitely stepping on thin ice – but she never crossed the line and for that I think she is being unfairly condemned.

In my opinion, Serena made a mess of a very winnable US Open and will be remembered for her outburst – similar to the reaction 2 years ago.  But let’s be clear – very clear – this was not MELTDOWN #2.  The two incidents are not related.  Serena was detestable and reprehensible in 2009; Sunday’s act was not even in the same ball park.  Yes, the situation could have been handled differently, but it was nothing to warrant a code violation or worse – a fine!

Williams even launched an immediate damage-limitation exercise after the final by pulling up a chair next to Stosur.

“All of a sudden I turned around and she was right next to me, which is kind of unusual. She just said, ‘How do you feel? Are you really excited? It’s unbelievable,'” she said.

“It shows what a nice person she is and what a true champion she is; to be able to come over and congratulate your opponent I thought was pretty classy.”

A deeper dive into second serve statistics

The two most widely reported second serve statistics in professional tennis are the number of double faults a player hit, and their second serve winning percentage. If we’re trying to understand the effectiveness of a particular player’s second serve, relying only on those statistics has significant drawbacks. Article by Michal Kokta.

Yves Boulais: No Excuses… Get Working

Yves was proud to work with players including Greg Rudsedski, Patricia Hy, Oliver Marach, Eugenie Bouchard and Rebecca Marino, who achieved excellent results on the world stage. He was an Olympic Coach in Barcelona 1992 & Atlanta 1996, and Captain of the Canadian FedCup Team 1998 – 2000.

Update on UK Tennis Situation with Master Louis Cayer

I would like to share a mindset I instil in all the players I coach, one I believe has greatly influenced all of the player’s performances; “whatever happens, I can handle it.” This mindset is achieved through a systematic, tactical development process, so that whoever the opponent, whatever the surface, regardless of the environment, or scoring, the players can, and will rise to the challenge as it is presented.