Hewitt won't be fined
Evidence 'inconclusive' on Aussie's outburst
Updated: Saturday September 01, 2001 10:07 PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. Open officials decided Saturday not to fine Lleyton Hewitt for his tirade during a five-set victory a day earlier, saying it was unclear whether his comments were racially motivated.
Because evidence was inconclusive, Hewitt didn't violate the Grand Slam code of conduct, tournament referee Brian Earley said.
Playing on Friday against James Blake, one of few blacks in the event, Hewitt complained after being called for two foot faults by a black linesman and requested that the official be moved.
Hewitt's remarks Friday were captured by television microphones. A tournament transcript quoted him as saying: "Look at him. Look at him and you tell me what the similarity is. Just get him off the court."
Some observers, including Blake, thought Hewitt was noting that the linesman and Blake were both black. But the umpire, Andreas Egli, inferred no racial overtones, Earley said.
Hewitt told officials what he meant by the comment was that the same linesman made both foot-fault calls.
"There was no gesture in the direction of Mr. Blake when he made the comments about 'the similarities,'" Earley said. "He did not use Mr. Blake's name. He didn't say 'my opponent.' He made no reference to Mr. Blake. ...
"Whether it's misconstrued or not, I can't tell you. I only can say that I would have to draw conclusions from what I see and what I hear that he was definitely making a racist remark. And I can't do that."
Hewitt, who won in five sets, said his remarks were "nothing racial." In a statement Saturday, he said he spoke with Blake.
"I apologized for unintentionally causing an incident yesterday, which detracted from a hard-fought match and James' outstanding performance," Hewitt said.
Blake sought to play down the incident, saying he preferred to give Hewitt the benefit of the doubt because the remarks were made in the heat of battle. Blake declined to take issue with Earley's decision.
"I'm sure he weighed all the evidence and just made his ruling on what he felt," Blake said. "It's not up to me. It's not my job. My job is to go out and play as well as I can, which is all I did."
Two-time Open champion Andre Agassi said there was something positive to take away from the episode.
"We can focus on the negative if you want," Agassi said. "But I think Mr. Blake literally set an example, and certainly taught me a lot about dignity and class and tolerance. I think it's something that everybody can learn from."