flashback: irene inspires irina bump lookback, 1997

Irene-a. While we’re bent on avoiding hurricane — oops, we mean hurrican’t — jokes for now, TSF contributor Troy Venechanos sent this text along to the TSF crew earlier today: “hope you survived hurricane irina spirlea!”

It was one that had us cracking up out loud, and brought to mind the famous “bump,” which — upon watching it again — may have delivered more force to Flushing Meadows than Irene herself. Hard to believe this was 14 years ago in 1997, when a 17-year-old Venus Williams took down Irina Spirlea, the Romanian, 7-6 (5) 4-6 7-6 (7) in the semifinals.

TSF Vault: Flashbacks

the controversy train

If Serena Williams‘ outburst on Saturday night caused anyone surprise, hopefully it was only for the way she acted out, and not for the controversial act itself. For as long as she has been a professional, bizarre controversy has followed Serena (and Venus) onto the court.

It started way back in 1997, when Venus and Irina Spirlea had their famous bump at the U.S. Open in the semifinals. But over the last six years, Serena has had four major controversies happen on court, all during late-round grand slam matches. One of them, the 2004 U.S. Open quarterfinal against Jennifer Capriati spurred what you and me know today as Hawk-Eye.

What next? Hawk-Eye for foot faults? It’s not that far fetched…

2003 French Open Semifinals versus Justin Henin – The Hand
With the French crowd wildly behind Justine and sometimes rooting against the American Williams (George W. had just sent us to war…), Serena served at 4-2, 30-0 in the third set when JH clearly put her hand up to wait for crowd noise to die down. When Serena’s serve was long and the umpire didn’t award Serena two deliveries, the American looked to her opponent for recognition that she had, indeed, put her hand up. There was no such acknowledgement, and the moment is widely credited to Serena’s implosion in the match, which she lost 7-5 in the third. 

2004 U.S. Open Quarterfinals versus Jennifer Capriati – The Call(s)
At deuce in opening game of the third set, Serena hit a backhand down the line that was clearly (and called) in. Mariana Alves in the chair, however, overruled the call, spurring Serena to (rightfully) argue her case to no avail. Later in the set, Serena would receive three more 
horrific calls (by linespeople) and lose to Capriati in a charged affair.

2009 French Open 3rd Round versus Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez – “I’m Gunna Get You”
At 2-2 in the first set, Serena faced break point and approached the net after her opponent hit a drop shot. Firing the ball at Martinez Sanchez, Serena hit her in the arm, the ball bouncing back on Williams’ side. Instead of the chair awarding Serena the point and the game going to deuce, the game went to MJMS and on-court mics caught Serena saying “I’m gunna get you in the lockerroom. 
Serena won 6-4 in the third.

2009 U.S. Open Semifinals versus Kim Clijsters – Foot Fault
While it may never be clear whether the call was correct or not (Serena has said she believes the lineswoman was correct), Serena was called for a footfault at 5-6, 15-30 in the second set, on her second serve. Down two match points, Serena berated the lineswoman not once, but twice, towering over the seated, petite woman, waving her finger and cursing her. Serena would be defaulted because of the warning rule, and the drama continues to play out over what’s next for tennis’ former queen, and current diva.