Serena Williams today issued an apology to the line judge she verbally abused during her US Open semi-final defeat to Kim Clijsters.
Williams had issued a statement on Sunday night regarding her controversial exit from the women’s singles grand slam 24 hours previously, but it had not contained any form of an apology for her actions which had led to a second code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The violation resulted in a point penalty and coming on a match point against her, handed victory to Clijsters who went on to succeed Williams as US Open champion.
The initial statement issued by Williams came in the wake of being handed the maximum permissible on-site fine of $10,000 by US Open officials.
Yet there was widespread dissatisfaction with the world number two’s lack of contrition or a flat out apology towards the female line judge she had verbally threatened after being called for a foot fault on a second serve that handed Clijsters match point.
“I want to amend my press statement of yesterday,” the new release by Williams began, “and want to make it clear as possible – I want to apologise first to the lineswoman, 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.”
The new statement was released as Williams and her older sister Venus Williams prepared to play the US Open women’s doubles finals back at Arthur Ashe Stadium, against Cara Black and Liezel Huber.
In her singles semi-final with Clijsters, her tirade at the line judge had come following an earlier code violation for racquet abuse at the end of the first set. That violation also earned Williams a $500 fine, although the second seed and defending champion earned $350,000 as a losing semi-finalist.
Williams could be in for further sanctions, possibly a suspension from future grand slams or the loss of her prize money from this year’s US Open, as the matter has been passed on for further investigation.
“The Grand Slam Rule Book also allows for an investigation to be conducted by the Grand Slam Committee Administrator to determine if the behaviour of Ms Williams warrants consideration as a major offence for which additional penalties can be imposed,” the statement read.
“This investigation has now begun.”
Williams had been unrepentant about the incident in her post-match press conference, claiming to not remember what she had said to the line judge and saying her actions were not unprecedented.
She was later seen entering referee Earley’s office before leaving the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.
According the Grand Slam Rule Book cited in the statement, unsportsmanlike conduct when referred to the Grand Slam Committee can treated as “aggravated behaviour”, which “is flagrant and particularly injurious to the success of a Grand Slam, or is singularly egregious.”
The rule book states that such a violation if proven: “shall subject a player to a fine of up to $250,000 or the amount of prize money won at the tournament, whichever is greater, and a maximum penalty of permanent suspension from play in all Grand Slams and/or the Tennis Masters Cup.”
Her statement of Sunday night was made “to fans following the semi-final match”, and made no mention of the fine or possible further punishments and pointedly did not offer an apology to the line judge.