After Serena Williams' ghastly threats against a line judge following a foot fault call, most tennis fans thought they had seen the last of the ugly side of tennis. With both finals to come, spectators only wanted to see a great display of sport.
They were dead wrong.
The women's final saw Kim Clijsters become the first mother to win a Slam since 1980, but the whole evening was a bit too happy as a whole. All smiles from both players, not one angry or upset person in the house.
Then came the men's final and Roger Federer gunning for his sixth straight U.S. Open Championship.
But once more, one of the game's best players left a black mark on the tournament. Except this time, it was far more unexpected. Federer, who has always been gracious and honorable, lost his composure for the third time this year.
Crying like a 16-year-old who didn't get to go to the mall in Melbourne—fine. The man is a competitor and records mean the world to him. And plus, his opponent had just spent five grueling hours on court just a day before the final, but it didn't matter as Federer lost to him once again. Understandable frustration.
Slamming his racquet because he couldn't have hit the starboard side of the U.S.S. Enterprise with a forehand in a loss to Novak Djokovic in the spring—fine. Everyone has bad days now and then; it's just that Federer has far fewer bad days than most people. Once again, understandable frustration.
And now this.
After Federer went up 5-4 in the critical third set, Juan Martin del Potro had a fairly drawn-out conversation with the chair umpire about a call, and the Argentine eventually decided to use a challenge.
As soon as del Potro put up his index finger, Federer had heard enough and immediately exploded on the official, because del Potro took too long to make a decision.
And he had a legitimate point. Del Potro did take his good old time deciding whether or not to challenge.
But his fault was that he kept running his mouth as the chair tried to explain.
Everyone knows what happened next; Federer dropped a few heavy hitters, and the rest is history.
Although the always sportsmanlike Federer won the set, he eventually collapsed in the fifth set, much like he did at the Australian Open in January, and subsequently lost his first match in New York since 2003.
Four-time Laureus Sportsman of the Year or not, the fans expect more out of him. And doing his best impersonation of John McEnroe in 1984 did nothing to improve his new tag as a poor loser.
However, Federer is hardly the only one at fault for his actions.
The ATP recently issued Federer a $1,500 fine for his verbal outburst. Now before we proceed, let that gargantuan number sink in.
Fifteen hundred dollars.
If the ATP and its millionaire athletes had any double-standard to reality, that fine might be adequately compared with the following situation.
Officer: Sir, do you have any idea how fast you were going?
Driver: I don't know, sir.
Officer: Well, I clocked you doing 85 in a 45 mile-an-hour zone. Do you know what the penalty for such an infraction may be?
Driver: No sir.
Officer: The penalty for your offenses is five cents. Here's your bill. Have a nice day!
Driver: (Damn it, there goes my McDonald's lunch).
No apologies necessary. The ATP and WTA have no idea how to properly discipline their star players. The penalties handed down are either far too harsh or far too lenient.
Earlier this year, French star Richard Gasquet was suspended for two years because he tested positive for cocaine. The suspension not only came out of nowhere, it was issued far too quickly, as the decision was overturned in a matter of months. Whether Gasquet did or did not test positive after kissing a woman is irrelevant. The decision was made far too quickly.
Now, the fining of Federer and Serena for what amounts to pocket change.
In football, players are normally suspended for at least a match for swearing at a referee and fined a fairly substantial amount of money.
In American football, players have been fined 20 times the amount Federer was because they were wearing the wrong color shoelaces.
And in basketball, players have been ejected for giving an official the wrong look at the wrong time (see: Duncan, Tim).
What kind of message does it send to the two mega stars of the game, if they can get away with these kinds of actions and not be punished accordingly? Nobody pays to see a player threaten a line judge for a call. Nobody pays to see a player drop F-bombs on a chair umpire.
The fines not only insult the beautiful game of tennis, but cast an entirely wrong message to kids and other players on tour.
Is the moral of the story here that it really isn't a big deal that star players run their mouths to the officials?
There are thousands, maybe millions of young boys and girls around the world who look up to Federer and Serena. And yes, they pay exceptionally close attention to what their heroes do on the court.
The ATP and WTA need to take a much firmer stance and stop playing the part of an elementary school teacher.
"You get a five-minute timeout in the corner, Roger! Don't do it again, or you will miss play time tomorrow!"