Officials apologize to Serena for bad call
Umpire dismissed from Open after mistake in Williams loss to Capriati
updated 4:50 p.m. ET, Thurs., Sept . 9, 2004
NEW YORK - U.S. Open
organizers have apologized to Serena Williams for a controversial line call in her quarterfinal loss to Jennifer Capriati on Tuesday.
Williams hit a backhand well inside the sideline at deuce in the opening game of the third set that was called good by the lineswoman but overruled by umpire Mariana Alves.
The third seed, who lost the match 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, initially thought Alves had simply called the score wrongly, but the Portuguese confirmed to USTA officials that she had overruled.
“I called Serena,” said Arlen Kantarian, the Chief Executive of Professional Tennis
. “I apologized for the call, the overrule — which was a clear mistake — and told her how important she was to the U.S. Open, how she was a class act and how well she handled the situation last night.
“She was very appreciative of the call.”
U.S. Open Tournament Director Jim Curley confirmed an earlier statement by the USTA that Alves would not officiate in any further matches at the tournament.
“It was a mistake but she is a very experienced umpire and mistakes get made out there,” said Curley.
“She (Alves) was under consideration for another match, a women’s match, but we decided that it was in the best interests of the tournament (that she stand down),” he said.
The furor over the overrule and other linecalls that went against Williams in the match has renewed calls for technology to be used to assist the umpires in close decisions.
“The USTA, WTA, ITF and ATP have been exploring new technology for 20 years,” Kantarian said.
“We actually tested some technology, called Auto-Ref, in the qualifying tournament, so we are definitely looking into it.”
“I guess she went temporarily insane,” Williams said after the match.
No one would say whether Alves — seated on the opposite side of the court from where Williams’ ball landed — had been flat-out fired. Either way, she’s gone — too late to help Williams.
“I’d prefer she not umpire at my court anymore,” Williams said. “She’s obviously anti-Serena.”
The eighth-seeded Capriati will next play No. 6 Elena Dementieva, who defeated No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1).
Only last week, Capriati called for tennis to try some sort of instant replay.
John Sommers / REUTERS
Chair umpire Mariana Alves thrust herself into a firestorm of controversy after an errant call during Jennifer Capriati's victory over Serena Williams.
“I don’t need to see the replay,” Williams said. “I know my shots. Not only was it in, it wasn’t even near the line.”
“I’m very angry and bitter right now. I felt cheated. Shall I go on? I just feel robbed,” she said, managing to laugh. “At first, I thought it was another Wimbledon conspiracy.”
Sister Venus lost in the second round this summer at Wimbledon after Karolina Sprem was mistakenly awarded an extra point in the final-set tiebreaker. Venus did not contest
the call, and chair umpire Ted Watts was tossed out of the tournament.
Serena made a point to say she does not argue calls. Only this time, she did — for good reason, it turned out.
Williams hit a backhand that landed in along the side line, but Alves took it away, and Capriati went on to win
the key first game.
TV replays showed the line judge had called it correctly. But as Williams headed back to the baseline to serve, she heard Alves announce: “Advantage, Capriati.”
A startled Williams looked up and asked, “What happened?” Then she said to Alves: “That’s my point. That ball was in. It’s my advantage.”
Williams looked up at her family in the guest box, turned around and headed toward Alves.
“No, no, no, no, no,” Williams said. “That was my point! What are you talking about? What’s going on? Excuse me? That ball was so in. What the heck is this?”
Williams tried to illustrate her point, putting a ball on the court and pointing.
“The ball landed here. That ball was not out. Are you kidding me? I’m trying to tell you: The ball was not out. Do I need to speak another language?”
Answered Alves: “Please calm down.”
Capriati stood at the other end, shaking her head.
“I didn’t even, like, look at it. It was close. I was just going to do what the umpire said,” Capriati told the crowd after the match, drawing some boos and murmurs.
“Believe me, I’ve had things go against me many times, plenty of times. I deserve to get a call once in a while. One point, I don’t think, changed the match.”
Said Williams: “Honestly, I began to think, ‘OK, well, I’m not going to go for the lines, I’m not going to go for my shots.”
Later in the final set, replays showed at least two other incorrect calls that went against Williams.
Capriati beat Williams in the French Open and lost to her at Wimbledon. Capriati has never reached the final at Flushing Meadows — last year, she was two points from making it that far 10 times when she lost to eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semis.
In the last set against Williams, Capriati thought about that near-miss.
“There were actually a couple times there where that went through my mind. I was like, ‘I’m not going to let this happen again,”’ she said. “I think it was a good thing to think about it.”
Capriati has won three Grand Slam events and Williams has taken six. For the first time since 1998, Venus and Serena will finish the season without a single major title between them.
“You get second chance after chance after chance,” Capriati said. “I don’t care what the tennis looks like, as long as it’s gutsy.”