Sunday, 13 September 2009

Flushing Meadows: "How to Lose Matches and Alienate People"


You'll have seen the video by now.

1. That second foot fault call was simply gross incompetence. I don't buy the "letter of the law" argument one bit. If anything, that official went
against the rules of applying discretion by interrupting play with her over-exuberant interpretation of a very shady area within the law, and maybe even depriving us of a final set.

It's an unwritten rule that Officials are meant to turn a blind eye towards minor infractions like foot faults during the latter stages of matches.
Calling it at a critical juncture like that is inexcusable. There's almost certain to be a set of USTA Lines Person's Best Practices out there somewhere, to that effect. Why doesn't somebody get on to it?

2. Gotta disagree with the suggestion that Serena was essentially on her way out, having been
outplayed by Kimmie.

She was probably on her way out, but Kimmie was only just beginning to break Serena's defences down before incompetence intervened.

Kimmie was only playing
marginally better than Serena at the key moments. Both were making UFEs, both were exchanging breaks of serve, and both were hitting outrageous winners too.

3. That said line judges are there for a reason: to enforce a rule
we can't unfortunately do away with altogether (And I'm not convinced it's as dated as Marat suggested anyway). Doing so would mean guys on any self-officiating amateur circuit, are free to gain an unfair advantage by stepping over the baseline during their serves. When the pros do it, the infraction is barely detectable and confers no competitive advantage whatsover.

4. Serena's contention that "Players have gotten away with a lot worse", is unfortunately wholly untrue.

Actually people have been penalised
for a lot less than threatening to 'shove a ball down an official's throat'.

I can remember at least two similar incidents. One featured Lleyton Hewitt at the 2005 Aussie Open Final. The other, probably fresher in our minds, involved Marat Safin at Cincinnati last year. Both abused an official. Both resulted in code violations, despite
neither having made any threats.

5. What makes the issue so contentious in this case was that Serena had already incurred a code violation for breaking her racquet at the end of set one (something I hardly need add is her own fault).

Serena's behaviour was of course, wholly indefensible. A little surprising perhaps that her outburst bore a stark contrast to her very dignified response to the outrage perpetrated at the hands of Mariana Alves here five years ago. A situation that may have actually warranted the response we saw last night.

The rules are very clear. And Serena will have been well aware that two code violations equals a point penalty. Any further infraction can result in immediate disqualification. Or have I been watching the wrong sport?

6. The only thing that remains unclear to me is whether Serena received that second code violation for threatening to "kill" the official. Something she could be heard to be vehemently denying, and on which I'm inclined to agree with her.

If the referee's decision to in effect, default Serena, was based on taking the lines person's word over what almost everyone else seemed to have heard (balls down throats), then this is indeed an injustice.

As it stands, I think she only has herself to blame.
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