Serena Williams has shed more light on one of the more infamous moments in US Open history in a revealing podcast appearance with Meghan Markle.
The 23-time grand slam champion has announced she will retire following this year’s US Open, which is set to kick off in New York next week.
The courts at Flushing Meadows have been the scene of six of her grand slam titles, including three in a row from 2012 to 2014.
They were also the scene of an infamous clash which arguably led to the adoption of the Hawk-Eye system in tennis, when Williams faced Jennifer Capriati in 2004.
Facing her fellow American in the US Open quarter-final, Williams found herself on the wrong end of several spurious line calls, including one in which the chair umpire overruled a linseman on the opposite side of the court, who had called Williams’ shot in.
Fans at home had the benefit of Hawk-Eye being used for television broadcasts, but the technology was not in use by the ATP of WTA at the time.
Williams ultimately went down to Capriati 2–6 6–4 6–4, with the 40-year-old admitting it had become ‘impossible to play’ due to the frustration and uncertainty that came with many of the calls.
“The reason Hawk-Eye became a thing is because they were calling my balls out and they weren’t even close to the line,” she told Markle’s podcast Archetypes.
“In that match I gained this fear of hitting, because every time I hit a ball they would call it out, no matter how close it was, or how far it was.
“It became impossible to play because they just kept calling them out.”
The eventual addition of Hawk-Eye was far from the only thing to happen in the wake of the controversial match.
Williams said she also endured an emotional fallout from the loss, one that affected her confidence on court even years later.
“Eventually I remember playing in Australia years later and I just didn’t have the [fierce] Serena in me, because I was afraid.
“I was afraid to be Serena because of all the experiences I’ve had. I ended up losing a match because I was afraid to challenge or to be myself.”
Serena Williams accuses tennis fans of ‘double standards’
Williams went on to suggest she had been treated differently to her male counterparts over the years in instances where she has clashed with rivals or officials.
Citing the antics of players like John McEnroe in the past, Williams said she felt as though male players were often praised and described with more positive words when challenging calls, whereas she was always labelled differently.
Williams also referenced her memorable argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos at the 2018 Australian Open, in which she was docked a point for labelling the official a ‘thief’ during an on-court argument.
“I got a game taken away from me and I didn’t use a bad word at all,” Williams said.
“I just feel like there’s obviously a double standard, and whether people want to admit it or not, that’s OK.
“It makes tennis more exciting to see these players have these emotions. Tennis is very black and white, it’s just hit, hit, hit.
“There’s so many rules they try to tell you not to do, but if you look at soccer, basketball, if you look at all these other sports you have people screaming and the fans really part of it.”
Adding that tennis players are taught to be ‘monotone’, Williams said no matter how in control of your emotions you might be, it is simply too much of any human being to expect them to act like a robot.
“People are not monotone, which is why you see these attitudes. If they want to have these attitudes, I’m all for it, just don’t say I can’t,” she said.
“Let them be them, within reason. I got a game taken away when I didn’t use a curse word, not one bad word, period.
“I just feel like there is obviously a double standard.”
“I can’t win by being someone different. I have to win being Serena,” she added.
“Sometimes that’s more fierce. Is it fierce when guys are saying ‘C’mon’ and pumping their fist. It’s pretty exciting. But for me it’s aggressive.”
Williams has linked up with Australian tennis great Rennea Stubbs as she prepares for her final tilt at the US Open.