Serena Williams received an apology from the US Open after horrendous calls led to her defeat

Following the horrible umpiring at the 2004 US Open quarter-finals during Serena Williams' match with Jennifer Capriati, the tournament issued an apology to Williams.

Serena Williams and US Open
(L) Serena Williams, (R) US Open logo

Serena Williams remains one of the most iconic tennis players. Apart from having one of the biggest trophy cabinets in tennis, Williams will always be remembered for the controversies as well, some deliberate some unwarranted on her own part. One such incident happened at the 2004 US Open.

Seeded 3rd, Williams faced 8th seeded Jennifer Capriati in the quarter-finals. Despite winning the first set 6-2, Williams lost the next two sets 4-6, 4-6. What made the headlines however back then were as many as four dubious calls that went against Williams turning the match into Capriati’s favour.

Following the match, Brian Earley, the tournament referee issued a statement of apology to Williams. It was also announced that Mariana Alves, the chair umpire for the match was suspended for the remainder of the tournament.

“Regrettably, the replay on television showed that an incorrect overrule was made by the chair umpire. A mistake was made and I have discussed the call with the chair umpire. Ms. Alves, a 31-year-old native of Portugal, is not scheduled to officiate another match during the 2004 U.S. Open,” said Earley.

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Serena Williams’ defeat led to the adoption of Hawkeye in tennis

Serena Williams
Serena Williams arguing chair umpire Alves’ call

Williams was then a 2-time US Open champion going for her third title. She was looking hot favourite for the title once again having made it to the quarter-finals without dropping a set. However, the match against Capriati changed things completely and much credit for it could go to the chair umpire Alves.

With four major calls identified later, one of the biggest happened in the third set. At deuce, Williams’ winner was found to be within the left baseline but Alves thought otherwise handing the point to Capriati. Capriati capitalised on it perfectly to take the game, set and match to enter the semis while Williams was ousted.

Arlen Kantarian, USTA’s chief executive for professional tennis, later came out and said, “I did personally talk with her a couple of hours ago by telephone. She was very appreciative of the call. We apologized and told her how much she meant to the tournament, how much she meant to tennis, and we told her how much we appreciated how classy she handled the questions from the media and the situation.”

The situation did not cool down despite this and Jim Curley, the tournament director also had to intervene and give out a statement on the whole incident. “It’s unfortunate, and as we’ve said to Serena, these aren’t the circumstances under which we like to see Serena bow out of the U.S. Open. But it’s part of the game,” said Curley.

With hawkeye in use in an unofficial capacity back then, the ITF over the next year gave a trial to the technology and made it official to use for all matches. While Williams had to pay a heavy price for it, she can always take credit for bringing a massive change to the sport.

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Sarthak Shitole is a tennis writer at FirstSportz. Despite being a lifelong Roger Federer fan, he has admiration for other tennis stars as well.