Tennis

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After Winning Doubles Title, Serena Williams Offers Apology

Venus Williams, foreground, of the United States, and her sister Serena pause during the women's doubles championship against Liezel Huber, of the United States, and Cara Black, of Zimbabwe, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Venus Williams, foreground, of the United States, and her sister Serena pause during the women's doubles championship against Liezel Huber, of the United States, and Cara Black, of Zimbabwe, at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, Monday, Sept. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) (Elise Amendola - AP)

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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y., Sept. 14 -- Serena Williams made a triumphant return to Arthur Ashe Stadium Monday, teaming with sister Venus to win the U.S. Open's women's doubles championship two days after her singles quest ended in a profanity-laced tirade.

Then she turned the lens on herself, issuing an unequivocal apology to the lineswoman whose foot-fault call sent her into a rage one point from defeat in Saturday's semifinal; to Kim Clijsters, her opponent, who went on to win the U.S. Open; to the U.S. Tennis Association; and to tennis fans.

"Most of all, I'm a very sincere person," Williams said during her post-match news conference. "I wanted to offer my sincere apologies to anyone that I may have offended."

Williams also said she had not contacted the lineswoman, whose identity hasn't been released. Asked what she would say, given the chance, Williams said: "I would like to give her a big ol' hug and let her know that I'm just -- just put it all behind us, like I have, and just move on from it."

While Williams said she didn't think her foot had touched the line on the critical point, she added: "Looking back on it, I think the lady did the best that she could. She was just doing her job."

The controversy erupted after the lineswoman called Serena for a foot fault when she was serving, trailing 5-6, 15-30, in the second set. The infraction, which is rarely called at such a critical juncture, cost Serena one point, which handed match point to Clijsters, who had outplayed Serena throughout.

After getting a new ball for her next serve, Serena walked instead toward the lineswoman, shook the ball in her face, and yelled that if she could, she would "shove this [expletive] ball down your [expletive] throat."

On Sunday, Serena was fined $10,500 for the outburst (and for smashing her racket earlier in the match). The sport's governing body for Grand Slam events is also investigating whether further penalties are warranted, which could include an additional fine of as much as $250,000 and a possible suspension.

Serena earned $350,000 for reaching the semifinals in singles and, on Monday, collected $205,000 for her share of the doubles championship.

Shortly before the doubles final, in which the sisters routed the world's No. 1 team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, 6-2, 6-2, Williams issued a second statement about the controversy in as many days. Unlike her initial statement, Monday's included an explicit apology and an admission of wrongdoing. It read:

"I want to amend my press statement of yesterday, and want to make it clear as possible -- I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lines woman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst. 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.

"I like to lead by example. We all learn from experiences both good and bad, I will learn and grow from this, and be a better person as a result."

There were only about 1,000 spectators in the stands when the players walked into Arthur Ashe Stadium for Monday's doubles final. They were met with scattered applause and no audible disparaging remarks.

But during the trophy presentation that followed, the crowd, which had swelled to 3,000, clearly took Williams's side when ESPN's Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup captain, asked what had caused her to revise her statement about the incident.

A cascade of boos followed, and Venus Williams spoke into the microphone before her younger sister had the chance.

"I think what the crowd is saying, Patrick, is, 'Let's move on,' " Venus said.

In accepting the trophy, Serena Williams looked to the fans in the grandstands and said, "I really, really love you guys, and I never, ever want to have a bad image to you guys. You guys are my number one."


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