NEW YORK -- The ending was bizarre. The result was stunning. Serena Williams was bounced from the U.S. Open, as earlier she had bounced her racquet in disgust, on a code violation for cursing a lineswoman.
It was a sorry ending to what had been a competitive match, with Kim Clijsters basically outplaying Serena and then standing in disbelief as Williams was told the point she was penalized was the point that gave Clijsters the semifinal victory, 6-4, 7-5.
Serena screamed at the woman, "I'm going to shove this [deleted] ball down your [deleted] throat."
The lineswoman reported Williams' comments to chair umpire Louis Engzell, who then called a second code violation, which -- added to the one assessed to Williams when she bashed her racquet in the first set -- resulted in a loss of a point.
That point gave Clijsters the game and thus the match.
"I don't remember what I said," was Serena's comment when asked how she addressed the lineswoman. "You didn't hear? I said something; I guess they gave me a point penalty. Unfortunately, it was on match point.
"I've never been foot-faulted, and then suddenly in this tournament they keep calling foot faults. I don't know why [the lineswoman] said she felt threatened. I've never been in a fight in my life. I didn't think I would get a point penalty."
And nobody thought Clijsters would become the first unseeded player in the women's final since Serena's older sister, Venus, in 1997. Clijsters, back from a two-year retirement in which she married and had a daughter, will face Caroline Wozniacki in Sunday night's final. Wozniacki beat Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3, 6-3, in the other semifinal.
The way things had been going during this Open, anything was possible. Play had been rained out completely Friday, and then more rain Saturday forced postponement or rescheduling of numerous matches, including the two women's semis.
Normally held on Friday afternoon on the main court, Ashe Stadium, the women's semis were pushed back and back and back. Finally, the Wozniacki-Wickmayer match was shifted to the smaller Armstrong Court, and, after a lot of drying with hot air blowers, the two matches began simultaneously around 9:20 p.m. ET.
Serena, the No. 2 seed, never seemed in the match. She was broken three times. Then she lost her temper.
"That was a tough day," Williams said. "I didn't play my best."
But she also gave credit to the 26-year-old Clijsters, whose speed and strength were the equal of Serena, if not superior.
"Kim played well," Williams said. "I wasn't surprised. I saw her play in Cincinnati, and she played incredible. I thought, 'Wow, this is someone to watch out for.' I think it's really good to have her back on tour."
Clijsters, from Belgium, was champion in 2005. She was unable to defend in 2006 because of an injury, then in '07 dropped out to get married and start a family. But when asked earlier this year to play an exhibition with England's Tin Henman against Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, Clijsters got into shape in earnest. Now, in her third women's tour event after the return, she has surprised everyone.
"I'm in shock, really," was Clijsters' response when asked about reaching the final.
For Williams, a few days from her 28th birthday, the word is shocking. One moment she walks up to serve, the next she's being informed she's no longer playing.
"After she was called for the foot fault," tournament referee Brian Earley said, "she said something to the line umpire, who reported to the chair umpire. That resulted in a point penalty. It just so happens, that was match point."
Clijsters was as bewildered as Serena. Then again, while play went on, she was bewildering Serena.
"I came out of the blocks really well," Clijsters said. "I kept her on her back foot a little bit."
It was the front foot, when Serena was serving from the ad court, that did her in.
"If she called a foot fault," a contrite Williams said later, "she must have seen a foot fault. I mean, she was doing her job. I'm not going to knock her for doing her job."
When asked if she should apologize to the lineswoman, Serena said rhetorically, "An apology? For what? How many people yell at linespeople? "Players, athletes get frustrated. I'm sorry, but a lot of people have said a lot worse."
But not on this evening, in a semifinal of the U.S. Open.