Serena Williams lashes out at the chair umpire during her match against… (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters )
Reporting from New York — One powerful forehand could have been what sent Serena Williams to an uplifting comeback on the world's biggest tennis stage.
Instead it sent Williams into another moment of uncontrolled anger and public rage against a tennis official on Arthur Ashe Stadium, and it might have cost her a U.S. Open title Sunday.
Williams, 29, lost the women's final to 27-year-old Australian Samantha Stosur, 6-2, 6-3.
In the first game of the second set, when Williams was desperately grabbing at some momentum, she pounded the booming forehand.
At the moment the ninth-seeded Stosur lunged at the shot but before the ball landed, Williams bellowed, "Come on."
Just after that, Stosur's racket barely ticked the ball and the scoreboard changed from 30-40 to deuce. A moment after that, chair umpire Eva Asderaki of Greece assessed Williams a code violation and a point penalty that gave the game to Stosur.
According to the International Tennis Federation rules, Asderaki called Williams for hindrance.
The rule can be interpreted either by giving the point to the opponent if the hindrance was considered deliberate or by replaying the point if the hindrance was considered unintentional. By giving the point to Stosur, Asderaki interpreted Williams' yell as deliberate interference.
After the penalty was given, the crowd loudly booed for more than a minute.
And during the first changeover of the set, when Williams was ahead, 2-1, she launched into a tirade toward Asderaki.
Williams was heard to say, "What a loser," "You're a hater," "A code violation because I expressed who I am? Really. Don't even look at me. I promise you, don't look at me.… Don't look my way," and, in a comment that could be interpreted as threatening, "If you ever see me walking down the hall, walk the other way."
The last time Williams played the U.S. Open, she had left the tournament with a similarly contentious display after a lineswoman called her for a foot fault. When Williams reacted with an obscene tirade that included a threat toward the lineswoman, she was given a penalty point that ended her semifinal match with a loss to eventual champion Kim Clijsters.
Williams was also fined $82,500 and put on a two-year probation by the Grand Slam committee that is made up of leaders of the four Grand Slam events. Part of the probation was not having another "major offense" at a major tournament.
U.S. Open tournament referee Brian Earley, in a statement, confirmed Williams was still under the two-year probation, said he was reviewing Sunday's incident and added that a determination of whether it was "major" and what, if any, fine would be assessed, would be announced Monday.
Just as in 2009, when Clijsters' fortitude against Williams was lost in the temper outburst, Stosur's aggressive and calm play might be lost in the aftermath of Williams' behavior.
But the Australian, whose best career Grand Slam result before Sunday was a finalsappearance in the 2010 French Open, in which she had beaten Williams in the quarterfinals, kept her errors down (only 12 unforced compared with 25 for Williams) and her emotions in check.
During the tumultuous moments early in the second set, Stosur said she never heard a noisier stadium, but she also wouldn't concede that she did not have a play on Williams' trouble-starting forehand.
"I can't even totally remember the whole point," she said. "I guess the rules of tennis are there for a reason. [The chair umpire] made the call she felt was right."
Williams, who missed last year's Open because of a foot injury, would not express any regrets about what she said to Asderaki.
"I don't even remember what I said," she said. "It's the final for me.…I guess I'll see it on YouTube."