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TENNIS

Serena Williams apologizes for her tirade during U.S. Open semifinals

Williams had lashed out at a lineswoman, causing her to lose a penalty point and giving the match to Kim Clijsters. 'I admit when I'm wrong,' Williams says.

September 15, 2009|Diane Pucin

NEW YORK — Serena Williams on Monday afternoon wore a T-shirt that said, "Can I Get An Amen?"

This was after she and her sister Venus had beaten the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber, 6-2, 6-2, to win the U.S. Open women's doubles title.

And this was after Williams issued a follow-up statement to one she had issued Sunday; only this time she included an apology for her Saturday tirade directed at a lineswoman who had called a foot fault on Williams' serve. Williams actions caused a penalty point to be assessed for unsportsmanlike conduct -- a point that gave eventual champion Kim Clijsters a 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Williams' newest statement read in part, "I want to amend my press statement of yesterday and want to make it clear as possible -- I want to sincerely apologize FIRST to the lineswoman, Kim Clijsters, the USTA and mostly tennis fans everywhere for my inappropriate outburst. I'm a woman of great pride, faith and integrity and I admit when I'm wrong.

"I need to make it clear to all young people that I handled myself inappropriately and it's not the way to act -- win or lose, good call or bad call in any sport, in any manner."

After Monday's doubles win -- the 10th major doubles title for the Williams sisters and their third this year -- they conducted a news conference.

The first question was why Serena Williams had waited until Monday to say she was sorry for her actions. She gave a 184-word answer but never included the reason why she issued a second statement.

She did say: "I just really wanted to apologize sincerely, because I'm a very prideful person and I'm a very intense person and a very emotional person."

In an on-court interview immediately after Monday's match, ESPN2 analyst and Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe asked Serena Williams if something had changed in the last 24 hours to cause her to issue a new apology. As the crowd loudly booed the question, she smiled and her sister stepped in and took the microphone.

"What I think the crowd is saying, Patrick, is let's move on," Venus Williams said. The crowd cheered.

Afterward, McEnroe defended his question.

"I think, based on what's happened in the last 48 hours, if I'm going to go out there and have a mike in front of her, journalistically you have to ask the question."

Was he surprised Venus stepped in and answered?

"No, if I was in an awkward position, my older brother would try to help me too. It might have been appropriate here for Serena to say, 'I apologize. I was wrong. Period. End of story.' But for whatever reason she chose not to do that."

Saturday's tirade came when the lineswoman called a foot fault on Williams in the final game of the second set, a call that resulted in a double fault and put Williams one point away from losing the match against Clijsters.

The 27-year-old from Compton exploded into a racket-waving, ball-thrusting, obscenity-filled rant. She was assessed a penalty point, giving the match to Clijsters.

On Sunday, Williams was fined $10,500. She earned $350,000 for reaching the singles semifinals here. She and her sister also received $410,000 for winning the doubles championship.

The International Tennis Federation is investigating the incident. Penalties as severe as a $250,000 fine and further action as harsh as permanent suspension from Grand Slam events, could be forthcoming, said Bill Babcock, executive director of the Grand Slam events.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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