NEW YORK -- Oh Serena.
It wasn't as bad as her 2009 foot fault meltdown, but Serena Williams did herself no favors with her latest tirade against an umpire in the 2011 women's final.
Today, to add insult to the injury of losing the championship Sunday, the U.S. Open has fined her a whopping $2,000. She can deduct it from her $1.4 million winnings at the tournament.
After what she thought was a controversial call against her, Williams went into a tirade against chair umpire Eva Asderaki, saying among other things she was a "hater," "unattractive inside," "a loser," "out of control" and that if they ever met in the halls, Asderaki better not look at her.
It was three levels dialed back from the 2009 U.S. Open, when the overwrought superstar threatened to put the bleeping ball down the bleeping throat of a lineswoman who foot faulted her at a crucial stage of her semifinal against Kim Clijsters. That lost her the match and got her a two-year probation period.
But her latest lapse was still unpleasant to watch, particularly for the personal level of her remarks against the umpire, who is bound by her job duties not to respond in kind. You see this a lot - Andy Roddick comes to mind - when a player berates a linesman who must stand silent.
The incident began in the first game of the second set, after Australian Sam Stosur had stunned the overwhelming favorite in the first set, 6-2. Down a break point at 30-40, Williams smacked a screaming winner to the corner that Stosur barely got her racket on.
"Come on!" screamed Serena with a pumped fist. Unfortunately, her exhortation was launched before Stosur tried to hit her return. This made it a violation of tennis' little-known hindrance rule, which says you can't distract your opponent while they're trying to hit the shot.
I don't think anyone believes that Serena was intentionally trying to distract Stosur. Williams says she yelled out because she knew it was a winner when she hit it. I believe her. But a rule is a rule, and a winning shot that would have brought her back to deuce instead went to Stosur, who got the early break .
Serena had a few words with Asderaki at the time of the call. But the real poison came up two games later, as the players were sitting in their chairs for the break at 2-1, with a fired-up Serena back in the lead.
"You're a hater, and you're just unattractive inside," she said. "Really, don't even look at me."
This is a far cry from Jimmy Connors, who twice called an umpire "an abortion" in the 1991 U.S. Open. Or the legendary theatrics of John McEnroe. I even think it's better than the way Andy Roddick treated a lineswoman while losing in the 2010 U.S. Open, berating her on and on for a call that was actually correct. I think I actually yelled at the TV: "Let it go, Andy!"
Do we notice it more when a woman gets surly with umpires? Maybe.
She will never admit that she lost her cool. That's not Serena's way. But I think she knew it fairly quickly, because she acted with great sportsmanship during the awards ceremony, laughing and joking with the overwhelmed Stosur.
Asked at her news conference Sunday night whether she regretted any of her words, the 13-time Grand Slam champion rolled her eyes and replied: "I don't even remember what I said. It was just so intense out there. ... I guess I'll see it on YouTube."
Serena turns 30 this month, and based on her recent success, still has game. She has achieved so much in the game, gone so far.
But it's the momentary lapses that hurt her image and make it hard for fans to fully embrace the great champion that she is.