Washington: Crowd behavior affected Serena
Crowd behavior affected Serena
By MaliVai Washington
Special to ESPN.com
PARIS -- All tournament long, Justine Henin-Hardenne has had a lot of crowd support because she's from Belgium, where a huge portion of the population speaks French. It's not a surprise that much of the crowd was for Henin-Hardenne in the semifinal against Serena Williams.
Former ATP Tour pro MaliVai Washington is providing ESPN.com with analysis during the French Open. He was courtside at the semifinal between Serena Williams and Justine Henin-Hardenne
In addition, I think a lot of people wanted to see someone other than Williams in the final.
However, I thought the crowd at times showed poor taste toward Serena. There were a couple of occasions when the linesperson didn't call the ball out and Serena stopped in the middle of a point to circle the mark and the chair umpire confirmed that the ball was out. Serena was completely in the right, but the crowd reacted negatively toward her. After that, they proceeded to cheer when Serena would miss the first serve, which is completely inappropriate.
I think the crowd was definitely a factor in the match, when you have an extremely rowdy crowd there are times when it works in your favor and there are times it works against you. Two days ago, the crowd was for Amelie Mauresmo and it worked against her because she couldn't handle the pressure. Thursday, the crowd was for Henin-Hardenne and at times got ugly toward Serena and that affected her.
One incident late in the third set drew some attention. Henin-Hardenne put her hand up to wait because she wasn't ready to receive serve. At that moment, Serena proceeded to hit a serve into the net. Because Henin-Hardenne asked her to wait, Serena should have gotten a first serve. I don't believe the chair umpire saw Henin-Hardenne hold her hand up to wait therefore he didn't grant Serena a first serve. Serena argued that she should have gotten a first serve, but ultimately hit a second serve.
Serena better than anyone thrives in pressure situations whether it's the final of a major or saying she wants to win the "Serena Slam" or playing in front of huge crowds that are against her. It's impossible to come out victorious every single time.
When it was over, Serena shook hands with Henin-Hardenne, but never broke stride on her way to her chair. I would have loved to have seen Serena wish her luck in the final or congratulate her more than she did because I don't think her frustration or disgust was aimed toward Henin-Hardenne. In the heat of the moment, and with the way the crowd was behaving, I don't think she was interested in doing anything more than getting off the court and leaving Roland Garros.