NEW YORK -- The threats went unfulfilled. There was no brawl. There were no angry words. Serena Williams did get irritated, but only with herself.
"Because," she explained, "I wasn't very happy with my performance."
|Serena Williams has a few frustrating moments, but she gets through them. (Getty Images)|
That's when Serena growled at Martinez Sanchez across the net, "I'm going to get you in the locker room for that."
That day Serena whipped Martinez Sanchez, on the clay court, not off it, winning in three sets. On Friday, an ocean away, Williams shook herself out of lethargy and won 6-3, 7-5 in the third round of the U.S. Open.
This one closed with a handshake, followed later by a denial from Martinez Sanchez she even heard Serena's boast three months earlier in Paris.
In the first set that day, Serena ripped a ball that virtually everybody contended hit Martinez Sanchez, meaning Williams would have won the point. But after the ball plopped back in front of Serena, Martinez Sanchez said it hit her racquet, not her body.
Serena then complained to the chair umpire, who attempted to avoid any decision.
"I said, 'Did you ask her?'" Serena said that afternoon. "He said, 'Well, she's saying it didn't happen.' I looked her dead in the eye. 'Why? Just be honest, if the ball hit you or not.' I mean, hello, it totally hit her.
"She just looked down, and I just have no respect for anybody who can't play a professional game and be just be really professional out here."
Then, having lost the argument and shortly later the set in a match she would take 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, Serena told the umpire, "She better not come to the net again."
Strong words? "Well," Williams answered, "I am from Compton, you do know ..."
We do, although Serena now is based in Florida with older sister Venus. Martinez Sanchez, 27, is from Spain.
Asked if there were a repercussion from the French incident, if that's the proper description, Martinez Sanchez said, "No. I never think about it."
You can be certain Serena hasn't stopped thinking about it. When confronted Thursday after a doubles match, she said, "The ball hit her."
On Friday, wearing a post-match T-shirt upon which was printed, "You Can't Spell Dynasty Without Nasty," Williams was less direct.
When asked if she lost respect for players whom she considered cheaters, Serena was more politician than critic. "I can only speak for me," she said. "I try to be very professional, extremely professional in my job. That's what I'm here to do, and win, I hope."
Read between the lines, or specifically interpret between the quotes. At the French, Serena sneered at Martinez Sanchez's refusal to admit guilt. "I would never do that," Williams said. "I've never done that. I've never sunk so low ... because that's all I've ever been was extremely professional to anyone I've ever played."
Implying, what, Martinez Sanchez was not? "She's a tough player," was the Williams observation on Friday. "I was just trying to go out there and do my best. And I knew I had to be serious today."
Serena's the Drama Queen. With her it's usually something. In 2003 at the French, it was the "C" word again, cheating, when eventual champion Justine Henin raised her hand while Williams was serving and later denied it. At the 2004 U.S. Open. Serena got some awful line calls while losing to Jennifer Capriati. That led to acceptance of the Hawk-Eye electronic replay system.
On Friday, Serena, defending champion in the Open, offered some histrionics when she was down 3-1 in the second set.
"I got nasty today, but to myself," was the way Serena framed it. "I was screaming to myself because I wasn't very happy with my performance ... I have my own mental issues, and everyone has to battle themselves sometimes."
Serena's autobiography, On the Line, reached bookstores a few days ago. She discusses her insecurities, the depression after sister Yetunde Price was murdered and her dealing with a muscular body she finally has come to accept and appreciate.
When someone wondered about early reviews, Serena reminded, "I've been playing this [tournament], so I've been working. I haven't had the chance to see the reviews yet. I've been doing the job that I've been doing."
Which Friday included a victory in which she got mad at herself, not the opponent.