Serena Williams revived an old tradition in tennis in Flushing last night. She said some petty things to the chair umpire because she was angry and because she wanted to win—and because when you are not winning in a sport as lonely as tennis, there is only one person you can blame that is not yourself. That person is the chair umpire.
The way Serena spoke about Eva Asderaki, last night's chair umpire in the U.S. Open's women's final, was wrong. It was childish, and—especially in a sport that clings so dramatically to some sense of "tradition" and control, and especially in a sport that has a lot of fancy courtside microphones—out of order. Plus, Asderaki had made the right call by the rules of this particular tournament. But what Serena reminded us is that, despite a year-long break from the sport, she still cares furiously about tennis, and about winning. This attitude, and this way of expressing it, was in no way unprecedented.