Serena berates ump at U.S. Open - again


Serena berates ump at U.S. Open - again

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, September 12, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) -- Even before she began berating the chair umpire, things were not going well for Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final.

Her strokes were off-target. Her opponent, Sam Stosur, was playing better than ever. And Williams' deficit was growing more and more daunting.

So facing a break point at the start of the second set Sunday night, Williams ripped a forehand that she celebrated with her familiar yell of "Come on!" The problem, it turned out, was she screamed as Stosur was reaching for a backhand, so the point wasn't finished. The chair umpire awarded the point to Stosur, setting Williams off on a series of insults directed at the official, a scene far less ugly than -- yet reminiscent of -- the American's tirade at the same tournament two years ago.

In the end, Stosur's powerful shots and steadiness allowed her to beat Williams 6-2, 6-3 in a surprisingly lopsided upset for her first Grand Slam title. Stosur left the court as the U.S. Open champion; Williams' night ended with her facing possible disciplinary action.

A sampling of what Williams said to chair umpire Eva Asderaki:

--"You're out of control."

--"You're a hater, and you're just unattractive inside."

--"Really, don't even look at me."

Asked at her news conference whether she regretted any of her words, the 13-time Grand Slam champion rolled her eyes and replied: "I don't even remember what I said. It was just so intense out there. ... I guess I'll see it on YouTube."

She won't be the only one, for sure.

Stosur probably will prefer to watch footage of some of the points she dominated.

"I'm still kind of speechless. I can't actually believe I won this tournament," Stosur said later, the silver U.S. Open trophy sitting a few feet away. "I guess to go out there and play the way I did is obviously just an unbelievable feeling, and you always hope and you want to be able to do that, but to actually do it, is unbelievable."

The ninth-seeded Stosur became the first Australian woman to win a major championship since Evonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980. Stosur received a text from the former player that read: "Twinkletoes, you finally have got what you deserved."

Only 2-9 in tournament finals before beating Williams, Stosur made the U.S. Open the third consecutive Grand Slam tournament with a first-time women's major champion, after Li Na at the French Open, and Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon.

This was only the 27-year-old Stosur's third title at any tour-level event, and what a way to do it. She took advantage of Williams' so-so serving and finished with 12 unforced errors to Williams' 25.

Most of all, Stosur avoided being distracted by the bizarre events that unfolded in the second set's opening game. Asderaki ruled that Williams hindered Stosur's ability to complete that point and awarded it to Stosur, putting her ahead 1-0.

Williams went over to talk to Asderaki, saying, "I'm not giving her that game."

Williams also said: "I promise you, that's not cool. That's totally not cool."

Spectators began jeering, delaying the start of the next game as both players waited for the noise to subside.

"It was probably the loudest I ever felt a crowd in my whole entire life. You're right in the middle of it. It was definitely a quite overwhelming feeling," Stosur said. "But once I hit that next ball in the court and started playing again, I felt settled. I guess it definitely could have been the big, pivotal point in the match."

The truth is, the outcome never really appeared to be in doubt.

Even Williams acknowledged as much.

"She was cracking 'em today," said Williams, whose five games matched her lowest total in 240 Grand Slam matches. "She definitely hit hard and just went for broke."

Tournament director Brian Earley said Asderaki's ruling was proper, according to U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier.

International Tennis Federation rules say: "If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point. However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player's own control (not including a permanent fixture)."

Williams said later she thought the last part of the rule applied -- and the point should have been replayed -- such as when one player's hat flies off during a point.

"I guess the rules of tennis are there for a reason," Stosur said. "She made the call that she felt was right."

In the heat of the moment, Williams had trouble putting the whole episode behind her and continued to berate Asderaki.

The chair umpire issued a code violation warning for verbal abuse, and the USTA said Earley would speak to the Asderaki and review tape to determine whether Williams would be fined. That decision will be announced Monday.

When Stosur wrapped up the match with a forehand winner, Williams refused the customary post-match handshake with the chair umpire.

This sort of thing has happened before at the U.S. Open to Williams, who won the tournament in 1999, 2002 and 2008.

In the 2009 semifinals against Kim Clijsters, Williams was called for a foot-fault that set her off on a profanity-laced outburst at a line judge. Williams lost a point there, and because it came on match point, Clijsters won.

That led to an immediate 10,000 fine from the U.S. Tennis Association and later a record 82,500 fine from Grand Slam committee director Bill Babcock, who also put Williams on a "probationary period" at Grand Slam tournaments in 2010 and 2011, saying that fine could wind up doubled. The USTA said Babcock will determine whether what Williams said to Asderaki on Sunday is a "major event" that counts as a violation of that probation.

A poor call during Williams' 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinal loss to Jennifer Capriati was cited as a main reason for the introduction of replay technology in tennis.

"It's just always something," said Williams' mother, Oracene Price. "And it seems to happen to us."

Because of rain during this year's tournament, the women's final was pushed from Saturday night to Sunday. It was preceded by a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, "91101" was painted in white next to the blue court to commemorate the 10th anniversary, and the U.S. flag atop Arthur Ashe Stadium was at half-mast.

A couple of hours before stepping on court, Williams tweeted: "My Thoughts and prayers to all who lost loved ones on 9-11. I know the entire country is with you today. I'm playing for you today."

Stosur was playing in only her second major final -- she was the runner-up at the 2010 French Open -- while Williams was in her 17th.

"I felt like I was definitely the underdog," Stosur said.

For all of her edges in experience, Williams was the one who started a bit shakily. She was back in action less than 18 hours after winning her semifinal over No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki on Saturday night, and Williams' game was sleepy.

"It was a little bit of a tough turnaround, but I don't think it would have made a difference today," said Williams, who said she didn't fall asleep until after 4 a.m. "I just probably should have been lighter on my toes and move in a little faster."

Her serve -- usually one of her top shots -- was problematic, slower and less accurate than usual: Only three of her initial 14 first serves landed in, and they hovered around 100 mph. Told she'd put 35 percent of her first serves in play during the first set, Williams replied: "Wow. That's not so good."

Williams pushed a backhand long to get broken and fall behind 2-1. She flubbed another backhand to lose serve and make it 5-2. When Stosur smacked a forehand winner moments later, she had taken 12 points in a row and owned the first set.

That was the first set Williams had lost in seven matches during this U.S. Open, a run that included four victories over women ranked in the top 20. She said her poor play Sunday is what made her so excited when she hit the forehand that led to all the commotion.

"It was beautiful. I hit it, like, right in the sweet spot," Williams said. "It was a good shot, and it was the only good shot I think I hit. I was like, 'Woo-hoo!'"

That moment of joy didn't last long.

Entering the final, Williams was 18-0 on hard courts this season, a full-throttle comeback after missing nearly a year because of health scares, including cuts on her feet from glass at a restaurant, two foot operations, clots in her lungs and a gathering of blood beneath the skin of her stomach.

She was ranked 175th after a fourth-round exit at Wimbledon, but hadn't lost since then until Sunday and was seeded 28th at the U.S. Open.

"It's been an arduous road. Six months ago in the hospital, I never thought I'd be standing here today," Williams said. "I didn't think I'd be standing, let alone here."

Stosur dealt with her own health issues that could have sidetracked her career, and she became the oldest U.S. Open champion since Martina Navratilova was 30 in 1987.

Once a doubles specialist -- she's won Grand Slam titles in women's and mixed -- Stosur only once got past the third round in singles at a major tournament before reaching the 2009 semifinals at the French Open.

Her game has improved dramatically since she returned to the tour in April 2008 after about nine months away while recovering from Lyme disease, a tick-born illness that can affect a person's joints and nervous system. She was ranked 149th two years ago; on Monday, she'll rise to No. 7.

"It kind of made me open my eyes more that you don't necessarily always get a second chance," Stosur said. "I wanted to take every opportunity I had, and I have now been able to fulfill that."

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

Rewind: Opener brings painful reminder nothing's given for Warriors

OAKLAND – Kevin Durant drove to Oracle Arena for his Warriors debut Tuesday night, walked in feeling good and quickly got quite the horrific surprise.

The San Antonio Spurs started knocking on the door to the place and didn’t stop until they owned it.

The Spurs barged in and took what they wanted, everything from points and rebounds to wine and shaving cream. And the Warriors, as if bound and gagged, mostly watched helplessly in taking a 129-100 beating.

“A nice little slap in the face,” Steph Curry summarized.

“We got punched in the mouth,” Draymond Green acknowledged before adding the real takeaway line, “which I don’t know if it was quite a bad thing for us.”

This brutal flogging ends talk of a historically great start resembling that which the Warriors managed last season in winning their first 24 games. This puts to rest any cloak of invincibility for which they might have been being fitted, whether in their minds of those of their fans.

The Warriors were mugged on the glass, losing the rebounding battle 54-35, with San Antonio snatching 21 on offense and turning them into 26-4 advantage in second-chance points. The bigger, slower Spurs even outscored the Warriors 24-20 on the fast break.

“I’m sure we’ll be motivated for our next game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I think our guys were embarrassed. I know I was.”

If embarrassing seems a bit strong, this surely was nothing less than a night of utter public humility. The curtain came up on opening night and there was CEO Joe Lacob shifting and twisting in his courtside seat, like a man getting teeth extracted without anesthesia, watching his Dream Team was destroyed.

“I didn’t have them ready to play, obviously,” Kerr said.

“The first game, you want to come out and protect your home court with the energy of the home opener to live throughout the game,” Curry said. “And we didn’t do anything to let that happen.”

Curry's numbers were not awful, at least not in the grand scheme of things. He posted 26 points, four assists and three rebounds – but added four turnovers.

And Durant, who started the game 4-of-4, delighting a crowd that had visions of 3-pointers raining from above, also submitted a glossy stat line, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

But the Warriors were dragged across their own floor. Oracle Arena has been their sanctuary for two full seasons, during which they posted a 78-4 record.

The best they can do now is 40-1.

“No one is satisfied with the way they played tonight, especially myself,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting. “In the long run, this will benefit us. It’s a long season, and not everything is going to be perfect from the jump.”

So, no, the season is not over. Not even close. Remember, LeBron James’ debut with the Miami Heat six years ago ended with an 88-80 loss, followed by seven more losses in the next 16 games.

But it’s always alarming when someone storms into your house, looks you in the eye and takes what they want.

Opening night for the Warriors delivered a painful reminder that regardless of how imposing they might be or how many All-Stars are on the payroll, nothing will be given. Effort and desire, as they discovered, can be more than a great equalizer.

The Warriors now know that victory is not preordained, that if they want the glory and the spoils they believe to be theirs, they will have to prove it. Every night.

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

Rewind: Vlasic the unlikely hero in Sharks OT win

SAN JOSE – Prior to the season’s start, Marc-Edouard Vlasic mentioned that the Sharks’ blue line group might not get the league-wide respect it deserves due to it only having “one offensive defenseman.” He was, of course, referring to Brent Burns.

Through the first six games, that was the truth. Burns entered Tuesday night’s action with nine points, tied for the league lead in scoring, while the other five Sharks defenseman had just three assists – combined.

For at least one night, though, it wasn’t Burns who was the offensive hero. That honor went to Vlasic, who seized a loose puck in the neutral zone in overtime against Anaheim, raced ahead towards goalie John Gibson on a partial breakaway, and finished off a beautiful goal in giving the Sharks a much-deserved 2-1 win at SAP Center.

“Put my head down, breakaway, cut across and I was able to put it in,” said Vlasic, who had the presence of mind to use his skate to keep a backchecking Corey Perry from knocking the puck away. 

Pete DeBoer said: "He's got some speed when he wants to use it, and he's a big game player. That's what he does. Those guys find another level at key times, and he's one of those guys.”

The goal served as poetic justice in that the Sharks were the much better team throughout three periods. San Jose held a 35-20 advantage on the shot clock but only managed one goal, a power play marker by Joe Pavelski in the first period. Chris Wagner answered that late in the second period, despite San Jose registering 15 of the 20 shots in the middle frame.

DeBoer rearranged all four of his forward lines after the Sharks were shut out in Detroit on Saturday, and the Sharks looked much more dangerous despite just the single lonely marker before overtime.

“There’s a lot of good little things that we did well,” Pavelski said. “We were on the attack, felt like we were on the inside. We just weren’t cashing in or getting that bounce.”

Couture said: “We created some chances. We could have had a couple. Each line played pretty well.”

DeBoer, too, liked what he saw from his new combos.

“If we keep playing like that, it's going to come,” he said. “But, it was a nice response game after the Detroit game.”

Perhaps the most consistent part of the Sharks’ game through seven games has been their penalty kill. San Jose fought off all three Ducks advantages, including a brief five-on-three in the first period shortly after Pavelski had opened the scoring.

Micheal Haley took exception to a high hit by Clayton Stoner on Patrick Marleau, and dropped the gloves with the Anaheim defenseman. He was issued an instigation minor to go along with a fighting major and 10-minute misconduct, and one minute and 24 seconds later, Tomas Hertl was busted for a faceoff violation.

Couture, Burns and Paul Martin worked to nullify the two-man advantage, and the Sharks proceeded to kill the remaining time on the Hertl penalty, too.

“It was an important time of the game with a one-goal lead,” said Martin Jones, who made seven saves on the PK and 19 total.

Penalties like Haley’s, where he was sticking up for a teammate, are also easier to get up for according to the goalie.

“I don't think he was expecting to get an instigator call on that one, but yeah, we'll kill that off, for sure,” Jones said. “Hales is a good team guy to go out and do stuff like that."

San Jose is 18-for-22 on the penalty kill overall, including a third period kill of a Joe Thornton holding-the-stick minor at 4:09.

“We’ve allowed [four] goals against, but they were unfortunate bounces or really nice shots from them that we could do nothing about,” Vlasic said. “Penalty kill has been good. Guys have been bearing down, blocking shots when we need to.”

The Sharks will remain at home where they will host the rebuilding Blue Jackets on Thursday and Predators on Saturday. After an odd training camp with many players missing and a tough five-games-in-eight-days road trip after the home opener, they’ll get a chance now to enjoy a much more normal day-to-day routine, with practice.

Tuesday’s win could serve as a solid foundation on which to build.

“That was definitely one of our better games this year,” Couture said. “It was good from basically start to finish.”

Especially the finish.