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Kurt Streeter: Serena Williams should be suspended for the rest of the year

September 15, 2009 | 11:35 am


The men’s final at the rainswept U.S. Open of 2009 was a long one, but compared to the epics we’ve seen recently at Wimbledon, a dud. The women’s final? Did anyone watch? Did anyone outside Belgium truly care?

Let’s face it, the 2009 Open will always be remembered for Serena Williams’ sudden, salty burst of lunacy. Now the question, even after her Monday apology, is how  tennis will respond.

Look, I still have great admiration for Serena Williams. I still think the journey she’s shared with her sister is one of the greatest stories in the history of sports. From where they came from, if the sisters had just been good enough to play college tennis it would have been unbelievable. Almost unthinkable. The fact that they are both among tennis' all-time greats -- mind-boggling.

A fine history is one thing. In the here and now, however, for her actions at this tournament, threatening a lineswoman who made a good call at a bad time, the $10,500 fine she’s been assessed is an utter joke.

Come on … $10,500? To a woman whose career prize money is more than $26 million? To her that’s nothing more than a thin dime.

Since a garden variety fine doesn’t mean much – doesn’t tell her and all the other players this kind of behavior will never be acceptable – it’s obvious a suspension must be served. What’s appropriate for one of the ugliest outbursts we’ve ever witnessed in a professional tennis match because it included a physical threat to an official? Serena should sit for the rest of the tennis season. That’s 3½ months off. Let her cool her jets as the big guns of women’s tennis swing through Asia, Moscow and the $4.5 million season-ending championship in Doha, Qatar.

Let her start fresh next season, defending her title in Australia, hopefully with a clear head and a better handle on her emotions.

She shouldn’t have been allowed to play in Monday’s doubles final, a match she and her sister won. When it was over, TV commentator/U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe asked about the second written apology she’d issued since the tirade. He gave her an opening to address the crowd and apologize in person. Serena wouldn’t answer. She let her sister step in and talk about moving on. McEnroe, sadly enough, was promptly booed. 

Maybe the Flushing Meadows crowd is fine with her actions. But that doesn’t mean she was right. Doesn’t mean the churlish, childish way she comported herself in the press conference immediately following her default was acceptable. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect more guts and class from the best female athlete on the planet.

It was only in the news conference after the doubles match – the third time she’d had an opportunity to apologize more directly than in a statement or a Twitter post – that Serena verbally apologized. She pretty much said the right things – though it would have been nice to hear her say she was simply wrong and foolish, without all the gloss about her pride and faith and emotion. An apology was an extremely important and necessary move, but only half of the equation. The public seems to know this isn’t over yet.

-- Kurt Streeter

Photo: Serena Williams. Credit: William Pearlman / U.S. Presswire.