Paris: Serena Williams will not be punished for accusing Justine Henin-Hardenne of “lying and fabricating” in their French Open semi-final, tennis officials said on Friday. “It is a matter of freedom of speech,” WTA spokesman John Dolan said.
The American world No. 1 made the emotional outburst after Belgium’s Henin-Hardenne had beaten her 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Wiping away tears, the 21-year-old said she was angry that Henin-Hardenne had not intervened when the umpire mistakenly refused Serena the right to replay her first serve at 4-2, 30-0 in the third set.
“It wasn’t the turning point of the match, I should have still won the game, but to start lying and fabricating is not fair,” a sobbing Serena said.
The WTA Tour said on Friday they planned to take no action. “It all depends on how you interpret it. Anyway, we can’t go round gagging players or censoring what they say,” Dolan said. “This is not something that we would take any action over.”
The incident in the third set occurred when Serena prepared to hit her first serve. As she began the delivery, Henin-Hardenne raised her hand to indicate she was not ready to receive it.
Distracted, Serena hit the delivery into the net. She asked to be allowed to take her serve again but umpire Stefan Fransson said he had not seen Henin-Hardenne raise her hand.
Serena waited for the Belgian to intercede and confirm she had signalled for the American to wait, but Henin-Hardenne remained on the baseline.
While not covered in the tennis rulebook, etiquette suggests the Belgian ought to have informed the umpire she had attempted to delay the American.
The incident riled the partisan French crowd and they began jeering and booing the American as well as cheering her mistakes. Their behaviour upset the player and prompted mother Oracene to say the crowd had “no class”.
Henin-Hardenne was unrepentant on Friday.
“I wasn’t ready to play the point. The chair umpire is there to deal with these kind of situations. I just tried to stay focussed on myself and tried to forget all the other things. It’s her point of view but that’s mine now and I feel comfortable with it.
“I didn’t have any discussion with the chair umpire,” she said. “He didn’t ask me anything. I was just trying to focus on playing the returns. She saw me and she served. It was her decision to serve. I just tried to stay focused on the second serve.