LONDON (Reuters) - World number one Serena Williams has been fined $175,000 and put on probation for two years for her foul-mouthed tirade at the U.S. Open, the Grand Slam Committee said on Monday.
The committee said a further major offence at a grand slam in the next two years would see her suspended from the U.S. Open in 2010, 2011 or 2012. The fine will be reduced to $82,500 if she commits no further major offence through 2011.
“On 9 November 2009, the Grand Slam Committee administrator determined Serena Williams had committed the grand slam major offence of aggravated behavior for her misconduct at the 2009 U.S. Open,” the committee said in a statement.
The committee, who are responsible for organizing the four grand slam events, met on Saturday with ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti at the World Tour Finals in London to discuss administrator Bill Babcock’s recommended punishment.
Responding to the decision, WTA Tour chief Stacey Allaster praised Williams and said the American would learn her lesson from the large fine and suspended ban.
“Serena Williams has been a great champion and role model to millions of fans for her entire career,” Allaster said in a statement. “She has admitted to acting wrongly during her semi-final match at this year’s U.S. Open, and has apologized for her actions.
“I have no doubt that she has learned from this incident and that we will never see her act in this manner again.”
Williams’s outburst was prompted by an incident in her semi-final against eventual champion Kim Clijsters at Flushing Meadow in September.
Trailing 4-6 5-6 15-30, Williams hit a second serve but the line judge called her for a foot-fault, meaning the American had served a double-fault to go match point down.
Astounded by the verdict, Williams launched into an expletive-laced rant at the official. She waved her racket in the lineswoman’s direction and then shook a ball in her clenched fist as she threatened to “shove it down” her throat.
Having already received a warning earlier in the match for smashing a racket, Williams was handed an automatic point penalty for a second violation which abruptly ended the match, giving Belgian Clijsters a 6-4 7-5 victory.
Organizers fined her $10,500, the biggest given to a female player since records began in 1990, at the end of the tournament for her unsportsmanlike behavior. Williams’s $175,000 fine includes the $10,500 penalty she has already received.
The 11-times grand slam champion issued a statement on the day of the incident apologizing for her behavior, saying she had “handled the situation poorly” although she declined to apologize directly to the line judge.
Such was the fall-out that an automatic ban, possibly even from January’s Australian Open, a grand slam she won this year, had been an option.
The only precedent for a player being banned from a grand slam event was when American Jeff Tarango walked off during a match at Wimbledon in 1995 before launching into a verbal attack when he accused umpire Bruno Rebeuh of being corrupt.
Tarango, who was fined a then record $63,000, was banned from the following year’s Wimbledon.
Editing by Tony Jimenez and Alison Wildey