Serena berates ump at U.S. Open - again

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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."

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.