Ranked the world No.1 eight times by the Women’s Tennis Association, Serena Williams needs little introduction for tennis fans the world over. She has won 23 Grand Slam Singles since she began her sporting career in 1995, 25 years ago. She is not only known and revered for her strength, zeal and hard work on the tennis court but also admired as an icon for female sports players the world over. At the same time, with great success comes controversies too and Serena is no exception.
As Serena, the iconic tennis champion turns 39, we give you five of her most controversial sporting moments of all time.
2019: French Open – Bad personality
Serena Williams, known for her on-the-court and off-the-court tantrums, had last year’s French Open riddled with controversy too. It has been alleged that even though she lost in the third round of the Grand Slam, she insisted that Dominic Thiem wrap-up his press conference to make way for her. And, this is despite the fact that Thiem was one of the finalists of the 2019 French Open. Thiem lashed out and said: “Every player has to wait. It shows a bad personality, in my opinion.” Serena had refused to wait for her turn at the press conference while tennis players world over, including Federer, said that players who win their match should be given priority in press conferences and that he understood Thiem’s frustration.
2018: US Open – Coaching controversy
Serena’s 2018 US Open controversy is probably top of the charts when it comes to tennis scandals in general. It’s much too widely known and remains fresh in our memories even today. Serena lost the match to Naomi Osaka after falling in straight sets of the US Open final. Serena was penalised for code violations that led her to an on-court frenzy yet again – her coach was said to be giving her hand signals in the second set, she spewed expletives at the umpire and smashed her racket. Serena demanded an apology for the penalty she was given, claiming that her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was only gesturing a thumbs-up to her. She also claimed that she was treated unfairly for verbal abuse against the umpire and smashing her racket only because she is a woman. Later, her coach admitted that he was coaching her in the second set and the penalty was not unfounded. Serena was fined a total of 17,000 dollars, that included 4,000 dollars for a coaching violation, 3,000 dollars for racket abuse and 10,000 dollars for verbal abuse towards the umpire.
2009: US Open – Sour loser
While defeat in any sphere of life can be a humbling reality check, it’s not the easiest thing to accept especially when you’re on top of the world. It was no surprise that Serena didn’t take her loss of points against Kim Clijsters at the US Open semi-final in 2009 too well either. It was a particularly low point for the decorated Serena because the match ended with a punishment of a one-point penalty, a fine and a two-year probation. She was warned repeatedly for slamming her racket after losing the first set in the game that later turned into a foot fault spiraling her into a frenzy. Serena did not apologise immediately but conceded in humility later by saying: “I just really wanted to apologize sincerely because I’m a very prideful person, and I’m a very intense person and a very emotional person.”
2004: US Open – Renewed calls
Serena’s arguments with the chair umpire officiating her quarter-final match of the US Open in 2004 against compatriot Jennifer Capriati seems somewhat justified. Even though Capriati played superbly and went on to win the match, it will forever be remembered for Serena’s arguments with the chair umpire over a couple of calls made during the match. Serena was the victim of many bad calls during the final set against Capriati, calls which were confirmed to be wrong by television replays. However, the controversy proved beneficial for Tennis as it is widely credited for the implementation of replay technology in tennis for line calls.
2001: Indian Wells – Boycott
Russia’s Elena Dementieva accused the Williams sisters – Venus and Serena’s father Richard Williams of match-fixing their games, during a post-match interview. Venus Williams withdrew with an injury at the last minute out of her Indian Wells semifinal match against Serena Williams. Serena went onto the finals defeating Kim Clijsters. This incident garnered much speculation, even though Dementieva later claimed she was joking. Serena was booed throughout her match while sister Venus and father were heckled in the stands. As a result, Serena boycotted the series for 14-years only to return in 2015.