Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — In her first appearance at the U.S. Open since threatening to shove her racket down a lineswoman’s throat during the 2009 semifinals, Serena Williams laughed off the incident and said it was no big deal.
“Oh my God, that was like two years ago,” Serena, who missed last year’s Open after foot surgery, said Monday morning during a press conference. “This is like two years later.”
Asked what she remembered from the semifinal against Kim Clijsters in which Williams went ballistic after a foot-fault call, Serena added: “I just remember I lost, and that was that. I got really popular. A lot of people were telling me they thought I was super cool, that they’d never saw me so intense.
“So, yeah, it was awesome.”
During the 2009 semifinal, Williams, then the defending champ, was called for a foot fault by the line judge on a second serve. She was trailing 5-6, 15-30 and the foot fault made it 15-40.
Serena then went off in a profane outburst, approached the lineswoman and threatened to shove the racket down the woman’s throat.
She was assessed a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, but because it was match point, she lost the match, 6-4, 7-5.
“It’s just unfortunate that a battle like that has to end like that,” a stunned Clijsters said at the time.
The following day, Serena said she wanted to give the lineswoman a “big old hug.”
Clijsters, the two-time defending champ, is out of this year’s Open with a pulled stomach muscle, but Serena is back as the No. 28 seed.
She fell to No. 29 in the world after missing nearly a year because of two foot surgeries and blood clots in her lungs.
“I think it’s fine,” she said of her seeding. “I’m 29 maybe in the world, I guess, I don’t know, so I don’t see where else I should be seeded.
“I know back in the day they used to have, if you were out for a while they used to have these injury rules, but I believe they got rid of that.”
Serena, a 13-time major winner and three-time Open champ, could face No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka in the third round.
“Poor, poor, poor Victoria Azarenka,” Patrick McEnroe said during the draw ceremony.
But Serena wasn’t as flip about her draw.
“I have to get to the third round, so we’ll see,” Serena said. “She has to get there. I mean, obviously it might be a good chance, but I’m just focused right now at this moment.”
Serena is 16-2 overall this season and 12-0 on hardcourts, having won back-to-back events in Stanford and Toronto.
“I just expected to do well,” Serena said. “I always have goals like I want to win this and I want to win that. Whether you reach them or not is a totally different story.”
Asked what she did during Hurricane Irene, Serena said she “played a little bit in the rain.
“I went to Park Avenue because it was empty and danced a little bit in the streets,” she added. “It was kinda fun.”
Two weeks from now, Serena could be dancing with another U.S. Open trophy.
Just don’t expect her to repent for her infamous behavior two years ago.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.