If Lleyton Hewitt's display of racial intolerance upped the ante of tantrums to a level rarely seen in professional sports, Serena Williams did him one step better at the 2009 U.S. Open.
Her behavior wasn't just unacceptable, it was criminal.
As with Hewitt, the incident began simply enough with a few ill-timed foot faults. Filip Bondy of NYDailyNews.com somehow managed to describe the spectacular meltdown with polite, proper language. His coverage actually became an ironic backdrop to Williams' tantrum.
Serena Williams will be missing from the U.S. Open with a foot injury when first-round matches begin Monday, but her tantrum still echoes and rattles inside Ashe Stadium.
The Tantrum was a remarkable tirade, really, a spectacular explosion of profane outrage that spilled all over the National Tennis Center's show court—directed at a smallish, Japanese lineswoman who had called a foot fault on Williams at the worst imaginable time. Among other things, Williams threatened to jam a tennis ball down the throat of Shino Tsurubuchi, who understandably appeared horrified at the notion.
This represented, in a way, a final evolutionary step for the well-traveled tennis tantrum, as we have known it now for practically a century. "Had to be the all-time worst," says Bud Collins, the tennis historian and columnist. "The language and everything. It was ridiculous."
Really, now. If Williams has caught the negative attention of Collins, that is saying something special. The long-time face of Breakfast at Wimbledon can put a positive spin on nearly anything in the tennis world. And when he describes something as "all-time" he is really covering a lot of ground. After all, he has seen much of the sport's history personally.
Shame on Williams. Four years later, she was still smashing rackets and acting menacingly.
One can only hope that after her success at the 2013 U.S. Open, she will begin living up to the "Serene" part of her given name.