Serena Williams fined a record $82,500 for U.S. Open tirade

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Serena Williams, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in women's tennis this season, was fined a record $82,500 Monday for her profanity-laced outburst during the U.S. Open in September and could be suspended from the event if she commits another major infraction in the next two years.

The sanctions were announced Monday by Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock after nearly three months of deliberation over how to discipline the most dominant player in women's tennis for an ugly tirade that was captured on national television and replayed countless times on sports highlight shows and YouTube.

In it, Williams cursed and physically threatened a lineswoman who called her for a foot fault, a seldom-cited infraction, just two points shy of match point in her semifinal against the tournament's eventual winner, wild card Kim Clijsters of Belgium.

The fine, while without precedent, represents a small fraction (8.25 percent) of the $1 million Williams could have been fined under the sport's code of conduct. It represents an even smaller fraction (about 1.25 percent) of the $6.5 million she earned this season, a record for a female tennis player.

"I am thankful that we now have closure on the incident, and we can all move forward," Williams said in statement released by her Los Angeles-based publicist. "I am back in training in preparation for next season, and I continue to be grateful for all of the support from my fans and the tennis community."

By every other measure, it was an exceptional year for Williams, 28, who captured two of the season's four major titles (the Australian Open and Wimbledon), became the first female tennis player to earn more than $6 million in a season and finished the year at No. 1 for the second time in her career, having achieved the feat in 2002.

Williams also published an autobiography, "On the Line," and diversified her business portfolio, acquiring an ownership stake in the Miami Dolphins and launching a new skin-care line.

According to the news release issued by the Grand Slam committee, which supervises competition at the sport's four majors, Williams was technically fined $175,000, which includes $10,000 she was fined in the immediate aftermath of the offense. That fine, however, has been reduced by half, to $82,500, provided she does not commit another major offense at any of the majors through 2011.

Similarly, the release stated, Williams will be suspended from the U.S. Open for one year if she commits another major offense at a Grand Slam event in the next two years. She could have been suspended from the next major, the Australian Open in January.

Stacey Allaster, chairwoman and chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, hailed Williams as "a great champion and role model to millions" in a statement released Monday and noted that Williams had already apologized for her behavior in September.

"I have no doubt that she has learned from this incident, and that we will never see her act in this manner again," Allaster said in a statement.

But in an e-mail exchange, former touring pro Mary Carillo, a sports commentator with ESPN, questioned why it took tennis officials three months to come up with what she called a "cockamamie decision."

"Serena Williams physically threatened and verbally assaulted an official during one of the most watched tennis matches of 2009, and after three months of thoughtful, considered cogitation the Grand Slam Committee came up with 'Grand Slam Probation' and a 'suspended ban'?" Carillo wrote. "And half of what was deemed to be her fine? Boy, that ought to show everyone."

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