November 02, 2009
It's been 51 days since Serena Williams threatened an official at the U.S. Open, yet there's still no word from the International Tennis Federation as to whether the 11-time Grand Slam champion will be suspended from any tournaments as a result of the tirade. The WTA's chief executive said three weeks ago that the investigation was "ongoing" and that a decision was expected by the end of the year. Our question: What's taking so long?
This isn't the Warren Commission. There aren't any grassy knolls or magic bullets or vague connections to Frank Sinatra. The lineswoman called a foot fault, Serena yelled, was assessed the point penalty and the match was over. That's it. From start to finish the incident took less than three minutes. Other than talking to Serena, the lineswoman and, perhaps, the chair umpire, what else is there to investigate? It's not like any new information is going to come to light.
With the WTA season completed, it may not seem like a big deal for the ITF to prolong the investigation now. (Even though, as stated above, there's no reason for them to.) But it's better for the organization to make a decision as quickly as possible. As wrong as she was, Serena doesn't deserve to be strung along for three months.
Waiting also could do damage to tournament organizers in Australia. The Open isn't going to see too much of an effect if Serena is suspended since those tickets will sell regardless. But Serena has already committed to a tournament in Sydney the week before. She will be the main selling point and organizers will doubtlessly be marketing the women's tournament around her. If Serena is barred from playing in the major, there's not much chance of her making the trip to Australia for a tune-up event.
Williams was fined $10,000 at the U.S. Open after the outburst, the maximum on-site penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. This current investigation was said to have begun that same night by Bill Babcock, the top administrator for Grand Slam tournaments.
It continues today. If the ITF has any sense, it won't continue much longer.