Williams booed after Indian Wells win
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) -- Serena Williams was booed through most of the match and when she hugged her father and sister following her victory over Kim Clijsters in Saturday's women's final in the Masters Series tournament.
Williams, given a pass to the title match when her sister Venus withdrew from their semifinal two days earlier, lost the first three games of the match to Clijsters. But she then seemed to regain her composure and went on to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory.
Many of the 16,000 fans began booing as soon as Williams took the court, then booed again when she walked over to her father and sister at the end of the match.
"I would like to thank my father for giving me strength. You guys were a little tough on me today," Serena said as she accepted the $330,000 winner's check. "I want to thank those who supported me, and if you didn't, I love you guys anyway."
Earlier, Pete Sampras rallied from 4-1 deficits in both sets to beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-5, 6-4 and move into the men's final. Andre Agassi will face Lleyton Hewitt Saturday evening in the other men's semifinal.
Serena Williams hadn't played since Wednesday, gaining a berth in the title match when Venus pulled out of their semifinal at the last minute Thursday evening because of tendinitis in her right knee. The withdrawal disappointed the 11,000 fans who showed up for the match.
Venus had shown no sign of the ailment while winning her matches leading up to the semifinals. However, both Venus and a women's tour trainer said she was in pain and unable to play against her sister.
Venus, ranked No. 3, and Serena, No. 10, rarely play in the same tournaments except for the four Grand Slams. Venus, 20, holds a 4-1 edge against Serena, 19.
Sounding more like a cynical boxing crowd than the usual polite tennis gathering, the fans' booing built to a crescendo when Serena was introduced. As Richard and Venus Williams took their seats, they also drew loud boos.
"Usually it's a very polite crowd. I've never seen anything like it," said longtime tennis fan Vincent O'Leary.
Clijsters, a 17-year-old from Belgium, was cheered when she was introduced and during the match. The majority of the fans yelled their approval and applauded Clijsters' good shots, giving her a standing ovation when she won the first set.
There were more boos when Williams won the second, but cheers were mixed in with the boos when she won the match.
Many of the same fans were in the crowd that had awaited the Williams sisters' semifinal on Thursday night, and booed then when it was announced that Venus had withdrawn.
One of those, Lena Maxwell of England, was skeptical about Venus' late withdrawal.
"The Williamses are not bigger than tennis. It's an individual sport," Maxwell said.
After losing her quarterfinal match against Venus Williams earlier in the week, Elena Dementieva said Richard Williams would determine which sister would win their semfinal.
"I don't know what Richard thinks about it. I think he will decide who's going to win," Dementieva said when asked to predict the outcome.
Bart McGuire, CEO of the WTA Tour, immediately denied the charge, saying in a statement, "We have seen no evidence to support those assertions and both players have denied them."
Richard Williams, approached after Serena's victory, called a security guard and told him to keep the reporter away.