Former women’s No. 1 and five-time grand slam winner Martina Hingis may not have had the foresight to avoid a positive outcome for a cocaine test in 2007. Nor did she have an ultra lame excuse that even Amish preteens wouldn’t buy, like French player Richard Gasquet, who said he tested positive for coke after kissing someone with the substance on her lips.
But if not foresight, Hingis had good character judgment.
Way back at a news conference in 1999, while still at the top of the world rankings, the Swiss tennis player said of the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, “They always have big mouths. They always talk a lot. It’s happened before, so it’s gonna happen again.”
Like on the court, Serena fired back without a second thought – or possibly a first one.
“She’s always been the type of person who just says things, speaks her mind,” said Serena. “I guess that has something to do with her not having a formal education.”
It’s a great bit of back-and-forth between the players. Not only did the soothsaying Hingis foresee the future, she coaxed Serena into basically calling her a bigmouth while acting like one. Great stuff.
The poor, uneducated Hingis, who somehow speaks four languages, never had the privileged “formal education” the Williams sisters had, which appears to consist of being home-schooled by their father Richard.
But Hingis’ prediction came to fruition in a big way during the women’s semifinals of the US Open last month.
Playing against eventual champion Kim Clijsters, Serena opened up a can of verbal whup-ass on a lines judge that called her for a foot-fault on her second serve, giving Clijsters match point.
Because of her “audible obscenity,” the 11-time grand slam winner was penalized a point and Clijsters was given the match.
Like any sound-minded individual, Serena attempted to sway the judge to reverse her call – which would be a first – by diplomatically threatening to “shove this fucking ball down your fucking throat and kill you.”
Clearly it’s a statement that can only come from an individual with a formal education. Nevertheless, the International Tennis Federation slapped Serena with a $10,000 fine and, even in the midst of her regaining the rank of No. 1 on Monday, is still considering a suspension from the tour, or docking her the prize money she won at the Open. Or both.
Tennis is a sport of tradition and customs, so I think players should be allowed to argue with the umpire – that’s a entrenched part of the sport’s rich history, thanks to such foul mouthed legends like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
At least McEnroe was entertaining in his foul-mouth tirades, with his famous “You cannot be serious!” and “What do you mean, out?” and “What line are you watching, pal?”- or my personal favourite: “Everyone knows it was in – in this whole stadium!”
Intimidating? Yes. Hilarious? Also, yes.
Granted, the imagery contained in Serena’s threat would be much more grotesque had she been playing basketball or rugby, but she broke from tradition when she started making physical threats, which were not just vehement, but from the sounds of it, a sure-fire way to lose a wristwatch.
Simple fines are not enough – actually they’re practically nothing to a multi-millionaire like Serena. Indeed the ITF should shove a suspension down her throat, like the one handed down to Jeff Tarango at Wimbledon in 1995, suspending him for two grand slams, but neither Williams sister puts in as much time into the sport as they used to, focusing more and more on other interests, like fashion.
So the ITF should hit them where it hurts.
Over the last couple years the Challenge System in tennis has become the norm for major tournaments. In conjunction with the “Hawk-Eye” laser system that records the movement of the ball around the court to within micromillimetres, players are now allowed to challenge the calls of line judges (other than foot-faults). But there is a limit: only three incorrect challenges a set.
So suspensions and fines might be a bother to a player like Serena, but to play, say six-months, with, say only one challenge a set, would drive her mad.
This may lead to more outbursts in the future, and more corresponding punishments, but it is a punishment with a dangerous slippery slope any player would like to avoid.
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