Actually, I think the award ceremony showed contrition on Serena's part. She recognized that her frustrations got the better of her during that last set, that she had behaved poorly during the match and regretted that it had come to that point. Maybe it was too little too late, but as we crucify her for acting in the manner she did (as a competitor, mind you, who felt wronged in one of the biggest matches of her life) we should also acknowledge that she made a sincere attempt to make amends and not take away from Naomi's moment by encouraging the fans there to embrace her as a worthy US Open champion at the end.
I try to look at things with an open mind... had that been me, had I felt wronged... not sure how I would've reacted. I would hope that I'd bite my tongue and save my vitriol for the post-tournament interviews, while also acknowledging that my opponent just simply outplayed me. But she would've been crucified and labeled a sore loser even had she made those comments in the post interviews.
Serena admitted that she was outplayed. She also pointed out that there is indeed a double standard. "Coaching" goes on all the time and is hardly ever called. I can understand why she felt she was being treated differently from the men when she was issued that warning. It's something that needs to be addressed by the USTA.
She did act like a bully. She's not without fault here. But the chair ump could've deescalated this too before it got to the point where it did. He could've been more understanding (as he would've been had it been two male competitors). Again, therein lies the double standard.
Serena's not without blame here. But the chair umpire could've done more to try to prevent the tainted event it became.
I recall several years ago in the finals of a matchplay golf tournament when I was called for a penalty that I'd felt that I didn't commit. I was 3-down to my opponent at the time with only 4 holes to play, and although I could've contested it after the fact - I didn't. I wasn't competing for 3 million dollars. It wasn't a major championship being aired on tv in front of millions of people. The penalty was that I'd allegedly dropped from a wrong spot after finding a hazard. I'd actually conferred with my opponent, we both agreed that my ball had crossed the line of the hazard margin where I dropped.
The head pro, who was following us, said nothing and he was a mere 10 feet away. He allowed me to drop, hit my shot, we finished the hole. He then approached me as we were heading to the next tee box and informed me that I'd taken an incorrect drop. I was beside myself... here I am, trying to somehow battle back in a match that I'm losing, only four holes left to play. My opponent and I agreed on the entry point of my ball into the hazard and where I should drop, yet the head pro saw things differently, and yet never once thought about coming over to speak to me or my opponent before I hit my shot. I recall calling him a name that I'd rather not repeat here and told him to go to hell.
My frustration didn't change the status of the match after that penalty, however. I thought I'd won the hole by draining a 10 footer for par, only to end up losing the hole. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. I lost focus, I was angry, my emotions were spent.
I probably wouldn't have overcome that 3-down deficit, but I felt robbed of the opportunity to try. That was my frustration, as a competitor. And this wasn't for life-changing money or prestige. This was just a mid-season matchplay championship. But the competitor in me felt that I'd been seriously wronged in that situation. Nevertheless - I congratulated my opponent and shook his hand. He apologized for me being levied an additional penalty, but I told him, "Mark, it probably wouldn't have made a difference in the end. You played great today, you deserved to win."
I can relate to Serena's frustrations. I don't absolve her from blame, but I can also understand why she felt like she got the short end of the stick. She was being held to a different standard than her male counterparts.
The USTA needs to nix this BS coaching warning. It goes on all the time and is randomly addressed. Either enforce it equally and equitably in all of USTA pro tennis or just do away with it altogether. There's no reason for this bullshit rule, that goes unenforced much of the time, to suddenly play a role in potentially tainting a major tournament.