Ashe Stadium Again Turns Into an Arena of the Absurd

Williams erupted and threatened her. The chair umpire then penalized Williams a point, ending the match, sending Williams storming off the court and Clijsters unable to celebrate an unlikely victory in her first major tournament back from the birth of her first child.

Then, two years ago, Williams was at the center of another officiating controversy when she received a code violation for receiving coaching during the second set of the final against Osaka. She thought the warning had been rescinded and then erupted when she was docked a point for slamming her racket, and then a game for calling the chair umpire a thief, demanding an apology from him in front of 22,000 fans and a worldwide television audience.

The apology never came and Williams lost the match, 6-2, 6-4.

Even before he hit the ball that hit the line judge in the throat, Djokovic had lost his temper and smashed another ball in anger into the side of the court after losing a point.

Is it something in the water at Ashe that makes players lose their composure, forcing referees and umpires to insert themselves into the outcome of the match in ways they never expected?

For several minutes after the episode, Djokovic pleaded his case to tournament officials, Soeren Friemel, the U.S. Open tournament referee; Andreas Egli, the Grand Slam supervisor; and Aurélie Tourte, the chair umpire.

“His point was he didn’t hit the umpire intentionally,” Friemel said. “He said, I hit the ball, I hit the umpire, but it was not my intent.”

A funereal anticipation descended upon the stadium. The rule, however, left no room for debate. It was only a matter of time, just a few minutes more, until Djokovic was defaulted.