Varsity Letter

Varsity Letter: Tennis Isn't Well Served by a Lack of Self-Control

By Preston Williams
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Much like the line judge whom Serena Williams (no relation to the writer) threatened with tracheotomy by a force-fed tennis ball during the U.S. Open semifinals, Patuxent All-Met tennis player Cari Hopson could not believe her ears when she watched the highlights -- make that lowlights -- of Willams's abusive display a couple of weeks ago.

"I had to watch it over again, because I didn't think she would really say that," Hopson said. "It was just crazy. I didn't really know what to think."

"I thought she was going to blow up and calm back down," Bullis All-Met Taylor Hairston said. "But she blew up and kept on going."

High school players make their own line calls during prep competitions and sometimes have judges at private tournaments. Besides being honest and fair, young players are expected to uphold the dignity of a sport that considers itself above the boorish behavior that has become accepted in the punk-worshiping SportsCenter age.

Williams, for all her accomplishments, crossed a greater line than the baseline. After the lineswoman called a second-serve foot fault that gave Kim Clijsters the match point, Williams didn't argue, "Are you crazy! How could you call a foot fault at this point in the match! This is ridiculous!" Even in tennis, few would fault (foot or otherwise) a fierce competitor for venting after a controversial call in a tight match.

No, Willams turned a Grand Slam event into a WWE smackdown, with pointed finger and shaken racket. "You'd better be [word we can't print] right!" Williams bellowed at the lineswoman, according to Sports Illustrated. "You don't [word we can't print] know me! I swear to God I'm going to take this ball and shove it in your [word we can't print, but it's the same as the first two examples] throat!"

What, they don't talk that way where you play tennis?

Earlier in the match, Williams had smashed her racket against the court and was slapped with a code violation, which meant another rules breach would cost her a point. Hence the foot-faulted game winner for Clijsters.

But better to physically abuse her equipment than to verbally abuse the official. (Let's not let U.S. Open men's finalist Roger Federer off the hook; he was fined for using profanity while arguing with the chair umpire).

"I've been upset with line calls and stuff, but I haven't been that upset to yell or threaten people or degrade the other person," Hopson said. "It makes the sport seem less classy."

"The audience is not used to seeing her react in such a way, but tennis can make you crazy sometimes, I guess," Eleanor Roosevelt All-Met Katelyn Stokes said. "Sometimes I feel like having an outburst, but I don't usually do it. I keep it all in."

At the time of the U.S. Open incident, National Cathedral All-Met Natalie Blosser was on an official recruiting visit to Yale. If nothing else, it served as an icebreaker.

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