US Open accused of ‘disrespect’ to Williams opponent
Organizers at the US Open have been criticized for their treatment of Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in her second-round defeat to Serena Williams, while the New York crowd has been branded “disgusting” by some observers for its behavior on Wednesday night.
In what she has hinted will be her last tournament, Williams rolled back the years as she stunned second seed Kontaveit in three sets, 7-6 2-6 6-2, to book a spot in the third round and delight a riotous crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was the type of victory that was archetypal for Williams during so much of her glittering career, but which has become a rarity in more recent years as injury and age have taken their toll on the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion.
The 40-year-old’s presumed swansong in New York has been accompanied by gushing tributes from the organizers – as was the case at the Canadian Open and Cincinnati Masters last month – although some found the pre-match ceremony disrespectful towards Kontaveit, who was made to wait for her lower-ranked rival’s hyped-up walk to the court.
“Once again, US Open organizers bringing Serena Williams’ opponent out onto the court (in this case, the second seed Anett Kontaveit) before playing a montage. Very disrespectful,” tweeted The Times tennis correspondent Stuart Fraser.
“It’s pretty simple. Play the montage, introduce Serena to a great reception, then the higher-ranked opponent last (as is normally the case at most tournaments). That way, no one left waiting courtside. Everyone’s happy. Done.”
Others took issue with the behavior of the febrile Flushing Meadows crowd, which cheered unforced errors from Kontaveit and greeted her winners with muted applause at best.
“Serena played well. Congrats to her. Yet [that] was the most disgusting crowd I have ever seen at a tennis match. Not one applause for Kontaveit’s good play. Cheers when she netted a serve. Where in the world did the US Open find such an uncivilized group of people to fill the stands?” read an online comment from one disgruntled fan.
Those sentiments were echoed elsewhere, although others argued that Williams’ status made her worthy of her boxing-style entrance, also claiming that it was natural that the crowd – which included a liberal sprinkling of stars such as golfer Tiger Woods – would get riled up in support of their icon, even as the umpire tried in vain to calm them.
Kontaveit, 26, was gracious in defeat and praised Williams, but the ordeal appeared to catch up with her as she ended up leaving her post-match press conference in tears.
“I thought I didn’t play a bad match at all… She definitely raised her level in the third set. She played amazing,” said the Estonian.
“In the first set she was serving so well in these important moments. I fought really hard, thought I played a decent match. She was better today.
“It was her moment. I was trying to do my own thing. Of course, this is totally about her. I was very aware of that.”
After the questions switched to Estonian and discussed the crowd, Kontaveit welled up, saying: “I mean, it was hard… it was something I never experienced before.
“I don’t think it’s a personal attack against me or anything. I mean, it’s fair.
“I definitely had no shame losing to Serena… It was very difficult with the crowd.”
In contrast, Williams soaked up the applause after what was her biggest win in recent memory, and she next meets Ajla Tomljanovic in the third round after the Australian overcame Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina in their match on Wednesday.
Williams, who had indicated she wanted to remain “vague” about her exact retirement plans after the first round in New York, said she had “nothing to lose” as she continued her run into round three.
“I’m loving this crowd. There’s still a little left in me. We’ll see. I’m a pretty good player, this is what I do best. I love a challenge and I’m rising to the challenge,” said the six-time champion, who is also playing in the doubles in New York alongside sister Venus.