Tennis

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Correction to This Article
The article on Serena Williams's loss to Kim Clijsters in the U.S. Open tennis tournament, a match that ended on a point penalty assessed against Williams for her reaction to a foot-fault call, incorrectly said that the line judge ruled that Williams's foot had gone over the service line. The call was that her foot had touched the baseline, which is the line at the back of the court. The service line, which forms one boundary of the box into which the serve must fall, is roughly midway into the court.

Penalty to Williams, Match to Clijsters

Fans attempt to wait out the rain in New York as multiple downpours over the past two days at the U.S. Open have forced several schedule changes.
Fans attempt to wait out the rain in New York as multiple downpours over the past two days at the U.S. Open have forced several schedule changes. (By Kathy Willens -- Associated Press)

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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 13, 2009

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., Sept. 12 -- The most fiercely contested and well-played women's match at the U.S. Open ended in controversy Saturday night, as Serena Williams lashed out at a linesperson and was assessed a point penalty that handed the victory to her opponent, Kim Clijsters.

Clijsters advanced to Sunday's final with the 6-4, 7-5 victory. But the Belgian, who only returned to tennis last month after retiring in 2007, took little joy in the achievement, as baffled by the frenetic chain of events that ended the match as the spectators at Arthur Ashe Stadium and the CBS commentators in the booth.

Clijsters had outplayed the three-time defending U.S. Open champion for most of the 1-hour 31-minute match and was two points from victory, with Williams serving at 5-6, 15-30 in the second set.

As Williams uncorked a second serve (having faulted on her first serve), a linesperson cited her for a foot fault, meaning one of her feet was over the service line. The penalty is rarely called and almost unheard of at such a critical juncture, two points from match point, with a place in the final of a Grand Slam event at stake.

Almost immediately, four-time U.S. Open champion John McEnroe questioned the call on air, saying he didn't see anything that warranted it, which resulted in the loss of a point. That made the score 15-40, representing match point for Clijsters.

But instead of serving, Williams, who had battled fiercely to force a third set, stepped toward the linesperson, shook the ball at her repeatedly and, according to several people within earshot, shouted: "You better be [expletive] right! You don't [expletive] know me!" Then she told the woman she was lucky she didn't shove the ball down her throat.

Louise Engzell, the chair umpire, summoned the linesperson and asked what Williams had said. With the crowd booing and play halted amid the confusion, tournament referee Brian Earley came onto the court.

The upshot was this: Based on the linesperson's account, Williams was assessed a point penalty for "unsportsmanlike conduct" because it was her second infraction of the match, having drawn a code violation for smashing her racket after losing the first set. The point penalty handed the victory to Clijsters.

In her post-match news conference, Williams denied threatening the official.

"I've never been in a fight in my whole life, so I don't know why she would have felt threatened," Williams said, unapologetic and unremorseful.

She also declined to repeat what she told the lineswoman, saying alternately that she had forgotten and that she had already "let it go."

"I don't think that's necessary for me to speak about that," Williams said. "I'm trying to better - to, you know, to get - to move on."


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