December 31, 2009

10 Most Memorable Moments of the Decade's Top 10 Memorable Moments of the Decade (as it relates to Serena):

3. Serena Williams wins four straight majors from 2002-03 to complete the "Serena Slam"

In addition to the three women—Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graff—to have completed the calendar year Grand Slam, only two other women, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams, have held all four of tennis’ major titles simultaneously. Serena joined that elite group with a dominant run from 2002 into 2003, during which time she won the French Open, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open consecutively in a feat that was dubbed the “Serena Slam.”

What made Serena’s accomplishment even more remarkable was the fact that she defeated her sister, Venus, in each of the four finals. Venus entered the 2002 season as the two-time defending champion at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and she held a 4-1 lead over Serena in Grand Slam titles. But in winning four straight majors, Serena established herself as the superior Williams sister—and the world’s best player. And Serena’s victories over her big sister were convincing, with three of the four coming in straight sets.

Serena dropped just five sets during her run of 28 Grand Slam match victories. She lost two sets at Roland Garros in 2002, and then shut out the competition at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open: 28 sets won, none lost. Her toughest test came at the 2003 Australian Open, where she narrowly avoided a first-round upset to Emilie Loit and saved two match points against Kim Clijsters in the semis. In closing out her sister in three sets in the final, Serena completed the most dominant run tennis had seen since Graf held all four major titles from 1993-94. --Ed McGrogan

5. Jennifer Capriati defeats Serena Williams in 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinals with help of bad call

“No, no, no, no, no,” cried Serena Williams. “That was my point! What are you talking about? What’s going on? Excuse me? That ball was so in. What the heck is this?”

What it was was the worst line call of the decade, and the impetus for a major innovation in professional tennis: instant replay. But while the incident helped transform the game, Williams was its unfortunate victim. Facing Jennifer Capriati in the 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinals, Williams was serving at deuce in the opening game of the third set when she ended a rally with a punishing backhand. The ball landed several inches inside the sideline for a winner, and the linesperson signaled that the ball was in. But chair umpire Mariana Alves overruled, calling the ball wide and making it Capriati’s advantage. Williams, stupefied, approached the chair and started arguing. All she got was a request to “calm down.” Capriati went on to win the game and the match.

Alves’ ruling was so egregious, however, that U.S. Open officials called Williams to apologize. And it was no coincidence that in 2006 the U.S. Open became the first Slam to implement the Hawk-Eye instant replay and the challenge system. Players now have recourse other than arguing with the chair umpire over line calls. Now if only foot faults were up for review... --Sarah Unke

10. Serena Williams' 2009 U.S. Open tirade

No “most memorable moments” list would be complete without the Serena Williams tirade of 2009. Her momentary loss of reason and composure during her U.S. Open semifinal left everyone, including John McEnroe (in the CBS commentary booth at the time), in a state of is-this-really-happening amazement. To recap, Williams was facing Kim Clijsters for a spot in the final. Down a set and serving at 5-6, 15-30, she was called for a foot fault on a second serve. What came out of Williams’ mouth next would be a nominee for filthy quote of the decade, if such a category existed: “You better be f---ing right! You don’t f---ing know me! I swear to God, I’m going to take this ball and shove it down your f---ing throat!” After the lineswoman told the chair umpire and tournament director Brian Earley what Williams had said to her, the defending champ was assessed a point penalty. Game, set and match, Clijsters. The next day, Williams would be fined $10,000 by the USTA, and eventually the ITF would slap her with a record $82,500 fine and two-year probation. (Williams called the ITF’s decision unfair and sexist.) What a way for the AP’s Female Athlete of the Year to close out the decade. --Sarah Thurmond

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