September 07, 2004

"I feel robbed." : Well, you were, hon. Serena Williams loses in the US Open quarterfinals to Jennifer Capriati in a match with several stinky calls, including some that were overrides. We ain't heard the last of this one...

posted by lil_brown_bat to tennis at 09:38 PM - 20 comments

Umpires are human, which is why I wonder tennis (and other sports) don't use more automation. Tough year for the Williams sisters.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:17 PM on September 07, 2004

I got the feeling (since I JUST turned to the match 10 seconds before the "call") that the umpire made a mistake and said the wrong name (Capriati instead of Williams) and then was too proud/stubborn to correct it. When Serena challenged her on the mistake, she seemed to clam right up. What Williams should have asked was "Did you overrule the line judge?" If the umpire says yes, then Serena really has no case (even if it was a bad call). If she says no, then Serena simply confirms with the line judge that it was in and the point should be hers. But since the judge never verbalized that she overruled the call by the line judge, it simply looks like she lost track of what was going on and said the wrong name.

posted by grum@work at 10:57 PM on September 07, 2004

How about the on-court interview with Capriati right after the match? On the one hand, I admire the interviewer for asking the question on everyone's mind. On the other, it came out just stupid, with both of them playing to the crowd. Having that conversation while 20k New Yorkers listened in was probably a bad idea. I can't help thinking that if the situation were reversed, with Capriati getting the run of bad calls, there would have been a little more drama on the court.

posted by jason streed at 08:42 AM on September 08, 2004

Serena handled that with such aplomb I was shocked. There's a girl who eventually just said 'Okay, I guess I'll just have to win the point again.' Of course, that didn't happen, but talk about grace under fire - McEnroe's head would have exploded within 8 seconds of the worst overrule in the history of the sport. That wasn't just 'in' - that was one-eye-closed-eating-a-hot-dog-in-the-14th-row-whoops-drop-mustard-on-my-pants-glance-up-and-see-the-ball-land-in 'in'.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:54 AM on September 08, 2004

That's pretty "in," Weedy. Though I don't buy that the audience would have reacted a whole lot differently had it been Capriati that got slighted instead. Both Jennifer and Serena are at the point in their careers where they've proven themselves as champions and as relatively classy and gracious people. They both had huge numbers of fans in the stands, many of whom were cheering them both on. That call kind of put everyone back a bit. The disgust, as I read it, seemed to come from an excellent match marred toward the end by a bullshit call that affected the flow of the game and the concentration of one of the players. Serena was way nicer about it than I'd have been, though she's gotten a few of those calls going her way in the past, and doubtless will in the future. They just happen. Still, it sucked.

posted by chicobangs at 12:31 PM on September 08, 2004

Okay.... stupid question. Why don't we have TV replays in big matches like this? People screw up all the time. It's part of the game. Put a screen next to the umpire and give each player one challange (ala NFL). It only takes a few seconds for the replay of the offending shot to shown on TV. How long could it take for someone to look at it and make the call? 30 seconds? That is the solution to the problem. I don't know why this hasn't happened yet.

posted by camcanuck at 12:47 PM on September 08, 2004

the umpire has been banned from further officiating at this year's Open.

posted by garfield at 01:06 PM on September 08, 2004

Though I don't buy that the audience would have reacted a whole lot differently had it been Capriati that got slighted instead. That's fine--I wasn't trying to sell it. I meant that Capriati might have brought the drama, not the crowd. She's more of a hothead than Serena, that's all.

posted by jason streed at 02:31 PM on September 08, 2004

From Jon Wertheim's tennis column: The other thing no one is talking about is there was another player on the court who knew what the score was. No one has even considered the fact that Capriati might have conceded the point or helped with the confusion. I asked Serena about it last night, and she was very charitable. She said it was not Capriati's job to get the score right.

posted by jason streed at 09:02 AM on September 09, 2004

I don't like any professionals that blame the umpire/referee. Screw em... If you played better than a few calls wouldn't "make" you lose.

posted by StarFucker at 10:45 AM on September 09, 2004

That often holds, Starfucker (Venus against Sharpova would be an example of that case). Quite often though, you can get two very evenly matched opponents and the difference between winning or losing could be an injury, a mental mistake, or officials' calls. I think this would have been closer to that situation than just not playing well enough against an opponent you should beat.

posted by pivo at 12:49 PM on September 09, 2004

Look, the USTA already banned the umpire. And apologized to Serena. And Serena has been really gracious about it, given the circumstances (and reporters' insistence on getting a rise out of her for a good "quote"). I like jason streed's comment about Capriati's untaken opportunity to concede the point. Or at least, as I've seen in past hotly contested matches, request that the point be replayed. Nonetheless, credit to all sides, the players and the organization. Move on.

posted by worldcup2002 at 02:43 PM on September 09, 2004

I was talking to an old-timer the other day who said that, yeah, bad calls have always happened...but that it used to be the Done Thing that, when you knew your opponent had just got hosed, you'd give 'em the next point -- shank it into the net or sail it into the seats or whatever. That was apparently seen as a way to avoid arguing with the umpire, and at the same time set things right (and make a bit of a statement). That may no longer be the Done Thing, but I thought Capriati's statement (apparently in response to the boos of the crowd) that she'd had plenty of bad calls in her time was, well, a bit feeble. Doing the Right Thing isn't something you do only when eeeeeverybody around you is doing it all the time. I also disagree with Starfucker's comment that "if you played abetter than[sic] a few calls wouldn't make you lose." In this case, they may have. There were three bad calls, and they were all bad in the same way: they were out calls on balls that landed close to or on the line. The effect was to deny Serena that part of the court: nope, you can't hit any winners close to the line, because guess what, when you're hitting the ball, that's no longer in. So it was potentially much more than just those three points. Third point: in tournaments where much less is at stake, there is a tournament official who monitors matches, and who will step in if the umpire starts screwing up. I've seen this happen in high school matches, I saw it happen in the Colorado Open. It's pretty standard tournament practice. Yet apparently that doesn't happen (can't happen?) in the Majors. In both this case and the Venus Williams/Wimbledon case, there was a situation going on, and everybody knew something was wrong...and had it happened at some rinky-dink little tournament, a tournament officlal would have stepped in. Yet in this case, it seemed like everybody was helpless. I don't get this. Anyway, I'm now pulling for Lindsay to go all the way.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 03:50 PM on September 09, 2004

Ahh the truth is finally out. Just heard Richard Williams on the Dan Patrick Show. Apparently it is a conspiracy against Serena, you see. Also, this is a racially moticated conspiracy, in case you were wondering. When Patrick asked him how Serena felt about the conspiracy and racism, he replied that he didn't know, he hasn't talked to her about it. So I gather they let Serena and Venus into tennis, climb the ranks to the top of the sport, become among the most popular players in tennis (men's or women's), just so they could blow the out call and cost her a match, while playing in Arthur Ashe stadium. Oh the cruel irony, those bastards! As a side: parents of star athletes should make with the shutting the hell up a bit more.

posted by pivo at 03:14 PM on September 10, 2004

When Patrick asked him how Serena felt about the conspiracy and racism I love Dan Patrick.

posted by rocketman at 03:43 PM on September 10, 2004

As a side: parents of star athletes should make with the shutting the hell up a bit more. The only one that should be allowed to talk is Walter Gretzky.

posted by grum@work at 10:20 AM on September 11, 2004

Umpires are human, which is why I wonder tennis (and other sports) don't use more automation. Aren't the people who create the automation flawed? Thus, if you have an imperfect system, won't the output also be flawed? For example, instant replay in football has not erased flaws in that sport's refereeing. In fact, it's only caused more controversy...and need I bring up the controversy surrounding the BCS? Besides, the human experience is central to sports and if that is phased out something will be lost from the game itself. I can't you imagine MacEnroe yelling at a CPU.

posted by Bag Man at 07:35 PM on September 11, 2004

Football instant replay is not a good example because there are still humans making judgments, albeit with a little machine help. What I would suggest for tennis (and other ball-based sports) is embedded sensors that leave no room for humans to put in their two cents. Surround the goal or boundary lines with something like RFID and then there's no question about where the ball went.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:05 PM on September 11, 2004

Uh, it exists. Hawkeye. Watch a tennis match and you'll see it. It's not used to overrule the calls of line judges, though. Serena: "I don't need to see it because I know my shots." And she was right.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:31 AM on September 12, 2004

Hawkeye, is that supposed to be me or Bag Man? And if it exists but isn't used, what's the point? Serena may or may not be the great player of this generation, I don't follow tennis closely enough to know, but she's still human and therefore not possibly more accurate than an extensive sensor array.

posted by billsaysthis at 01:19 PM on September 12, 2004

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