On the changeover before the fourth game, Williams calmly reiterated to Ramos that she doesn’t cheat. He concurred, play resumed, and Williams finally broke Osaka’s serve. But when Osaka promptly broke back, Williams smashed her racket onto the court, twice, and Ramos docked her a point. Destroying equipment is a code violation. This was her second one. Ramos announced the penalty over the sound system, but she didn’t hear. Williams’s confusion became the crowd’s. Eventually, her fury at the situation was contagious, too.
Twenty years of watching Serena Williams left me nervous about where the rest of this match would go. Obviously, it was happening again.
“Again” could refer to the 2004 quarterfinal between Williams and Jennifer Capriati, which featured at least four questionable calls, including a scandalous overrule of one of Williams’s shots, costing Williams a game. At home, CBS could show you how in her shot was. But there was no on-court instant replay back then. There is now, and that overrule is a major reason. (Williams lost 6-4 in the third.)
“Again” could also refer to a tight, entertaining 2009 semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters, who’d just come back from maternity leave. It’s notorious now for Williams’s being called for a foot fault on a second serve and Williams threatening to shove a ball down the throat of a line judge, a woman named Shino Tsurubuchi, who betrayed no emotion as Williams waved a racket in her direction. She was warned, then penalized a point — it was match point. She also was fined $82,500 and put on a two-year probation of sorts.
Two Opens later, in a lopsided, losing final against Sam Stosur, Williams was docked a point for screaming her trademark “Come on!” before a rally with Stosur was actually over. “You’re a hater” she told the chair umpire Eva Asderaki. “And you’re just unattractive inside.”