Serena Williams' tirade against a lineswoman who called her for a foot fault Saturday night in her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters may have gotten her into deep trouble beyond the penalty point assessed that cost her the match.
Early last evening the USTA announced that it had fined Williams the maximum $10,000 for a profane tirade. But that wasn't the end of it.
According to a news release, the USTA said: "The Grand Slam Rule Book also allows for an investigation to be conducted by the Grand Slam Committee Investigator if the behavior of Ms. Williams warrants consideration as a Major Offense for which additional penalties can be imposed. This investigation has now begun."
This opens the way for a possible suspension after the Open and a potential fine of $250,000 by the Grand Slam Committee.
The women's tour also issued a statement condemning Williams' actions.
"Serena Williams' conduct last night was inappropriate and unprofessional,'' WTA chairman Stacy Allaster said. "No matter what the circumstances, no player should be allowed to engage in such behavior without suffering consequences. I have spoken to the USTA about this matter and I agree with the action they have taken."
Williams also issued a statement that said in part: "Last night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure, I can see that while I don't agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly. I would like to thank my fans and supporters for understanding that I am human . . . "
Williams was two points from losing the match when she was called for a foot fault (and thus a double fault).
She exploded at the service line judge. It was a tirade laced with at least two profanities and several gestures with a ball and her racket pointing at the woman. After the lineswoman, who was not identified by the USTA, spoke with chair umpire Louise Engzell and then with tournament referee Brian Earley and WTA supervisor Donna Kelso, Williams was assessed a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. Because she had been warned earlier about smashing her racket, the code violation cost her a penalty point, which also happened to be match point, and her defense of her 2008 title was over, 6-4, 7-5.
As taken from CBS replays of the tirade, Williams said at one point: "If I could, I would take this -- ball and shove it down your -- throat."
Those words were blanked out in the replay, and commentator Dick Enberg said on-air: "We could pick up the profanities."
Nick Bollettieri, one of tennis' most well-known coaches and academy operators, taught and counseled Serena and older sister Venus and says he stays in touch with them and their father, Richard, regularly.
"I think the emotions were so high that Serena became a different person," Bollettieri said Sunday. "Because if you look at the past and the precedent of Serena and her sister, they are not mean girls. They have never been mean at the academy or to coaches or to children. That's not their way. But it also shows that human beings are subject to a breakdown, and sadly enough, that breakdown came last night."
She is scheduled to play with Venus in the women's doubles final Monday. Venus showed up with her father to hit balls for 90 minutes Sunday, but both declined to speak to the media upon leaving the court.
Said Bollettieri in summing up Serena's action: "Maybe it's not excusable, but it's certainly forgivable."