The 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is a storied figure in recent tennis history. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic are representatives of the men’s category who have the same status. The rest of the players, for all their merits, do not enjoy such a great honor in the sports community.
A vivid example of a special attitude towards Serena could be observed at Roland Garros 2019. After the victory in the third round, the press conference of the Austrian Dominic Thiem was stopped ahead of schedule so that Serena, who sensationally flew at an early stage . of the tournament, he was able to speak to journalists. Williams was accused of outright meanness, but as it turned out, the conflict situation arose due to the unprofessionalism of the tournament organizers.
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Initially, it seemed like Tim was kicked out on Serena’s whim.
Dominic Thiem a few years ago was considered almost the main contender for the transformation of the “Big Three” – Federer, Nadal and Djokovic – into the “four”. As of the 2019 season, he has yet to win a single Slam, but he came especially close to it at Roland Garros. The Austrian reached the semifinals of the tournament twice (2016, 2017) and reached the final in 2018, losing to King of Clay Rafael Nadal. In 2019, world number four Tim was determined to get revenge on Rafa.
At the start of RG, Dominik did not experience any particular problems with American Tommy Paul and Kazakh Alexander Bublik. He impossible to call the Austrian difficult and the match of the third round with the Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas-6: 3, 4: 6, 6: 2, 7: 5.
Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros 2019
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Dominic, after defeating Cuevas, went to a routine press conference, without expecting excesses. Last year’s finalist was answering questions in German when he was suddenly told that he had to go and vacate the conference room. The legendary American Serena Williams sensationally lost to compatriot Sofya Kenin (2: 6, 5: 7), so the organizers urgently wanted to free up the main press conference room for her, where Tim was from her at that time.
“I don’t understand anything. Really? What the hell? This is some kind of nonsense. Should I go because Serena is coming? Actually, I’m not a junior anymore. Okay, I’ll go. I can do whatever I want too.” said an angry Tim.
Sunday is gone. Actually, no one explained anything to him. It seemed that it was Serena who insisted on her performance in the main hall. Supposedly, after the defeat, the egotistical American is not in the mood and she wants to hold a mandatory press conference as soon as possible, and for her speech she needs only the main hall.
A few hours later, Tim spoke up again about the resounding situation, making a clear attack on Williams.
“I wasn’t angry or upset. Well, two minutes tops. It is only a matter of principle. It doesn’t matter if I was there or someone else. He himself was wrong when he said that I was not a junior to be expelled. Even if there was a junior, you had to wait until it was over. This is a common order for all, and the one who violates it shows his bad character. I am 100% sure that Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal would not have done that”, said Tim.
Williams in her press conference paid tribute to Kenin, who defeated her and admitted that she was in bad shape. Serena didn’t mention Tim, because she initially didn’t even assume that the Austrian was offended by her departure. Already when the Austrian made an angry statement, it turned out that Williams wanted to hold a press conference in a free room. Tim’s room was asked to be vacated by the organizers’ decision, and not at the whim of the American tennis player.
Serena Williams leaves Roland Garros 2019 early
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
According to L’Equipe, on the screen in the press room, Serena saw that the main conference room was occupied, but the second one was free, so she asked the organizers to place her there. However, there was a technical error. This press room was free only on the screen, but in fact Russian Karen Khachanov gave an interview there.
Serena saw Khachanov and told the officials: “Put me in another room, smaller, but right now. It’s kind of a disaster.” Yes, Williams did not hide her dissatisfaction with the management botch of Roland Garros and even threatened to deliberately shorten the press conference, but she did not mention Tim at all and, moreover, she did not ask to be expelled As a result, the organizers showed their lack of professionalism even more clearly, making the worst possible decision.
TBS rules state that the press conference must take place immediately or within 30 minutes after the end of the match, unless the referee extends or changes this time for a good reason. The lack of free rooms is a good reason. Serena knows the rules, so she would wait a few minutes if necessary, even if she didn’t like the situation.
The organizers tritely decided to please the legendary champion. The loser in this whole farce was Dominic Thiem. In addition, the Austrian was sent off absolutely incorrectly, without any clear explanation, which led to a confrontational statement from the tennis player against Serena. Only the next day, the director of Roland Garros, Guy Forget, apologized to Tim and told him why such a situation had arisen.
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Reaction to the incident of famous tennis players
Some well-known personalities spoke about the incident in Paris. Seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe believed that the situation had been artificially inflated and Serena was the victim of a misinterpretation of the facts.
“Serena actually asked for a smaller room to get through the press conference faster. But for some reason the organizers insisted that he go to the main one, where Tim was already sitting. And when Serena was informed that the Austrian was expelled for his sake, she said: “No, this is rude!” Serena is not a diva who can’t wait two minutes. She is a victim of the organizers, just like Tim,” McEnroe said.
20-time Slams champion Roger Federer understood Tim’s initial upset but urged that the incident not be taken too seriously.
“I don’t know what exactly went wrong. In my opinion, the player who has won is always prioritized over the player who has already lost. At least that’s what it seems to me. If I lose my match, I would let Leonardo Mayer stand next to me or I would let him choose whether he wants to go to the press first or not. Because the winner plays in the next round and the loser doesn’t know when. In my opinion, the logic is this. There must have been some misunderstanding yesterday. Maybe the organizers should have kept Serena in the locker room longer and not taken her to the media center. I don’t know what happened there.
I understand Dominic was upset: how was he supposed to understand why the hell they were kicking him out? That said, I don’t think he’s mad at Serena or anyone else. He just came off awkward, but I think it’s pretty funny, we were just kidding about it. That’s why I know, we discussed it in the locker room. However, I understand that at that time he was not funny. I really liked the way he said it: “What the hell? This is bullshit.” I love his accent. Not only when he speaks English; when in German-also. I told him,” Federer said.
John McEnroe and Roger Federer
Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Seven-time Slams champion Boris Becker supported Tim and blamed the organizers for everything.
“I am on Dominic’s side in this situation. He is a finalist at Roland Garros, a mature tennis player, one of the main players on the circuit. If he gives an interview at a press conference and it’s not over yet, then the rest will have to wait. Not even Serena Williams. The organizers were not lucky enough to put two players in this position. They should have known that Tim was still holding a press conference. When he finishes, it will be Serena’s turn. For the players, it was all very uncomfortable. Poor organization,” Becker said.
The Serena incident didn’t bother Tim. At Roland Garros 2019 he fought for the title again, eliminating world number one Novak Djokovic in the semifinals (6: 2, 3: 6, 7: 5, 5: 7, 7: 5). In the final, Dominic lost again to Rafael Nadal (3:6, 7:5, 1:6, 1:6). Rafa confirmed his status as king of clay by winning his 12th WG title in 15 tournament appearances. Tim must have been pleased with his performance. Objectively, he could do little against Nadal, who completely dominates Paris.
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Tim and Serena quickly resolved the conflict.
Already after Roland Garros, Tim established a relationship with Serena, inviting her to play in mixed doubles at one of the Slams.
“It caused quite a stir, I still don’t understand why. Serena is a great champion, her achievements are amazing. So that there is no tension left, I would like to play a mixed doubles with her at Wimbledon or the US Open,” said Tim.
Williams confirmed that her misunderstanding with Tim was over.
“I asked the organizers to send me to the small hall. I begged to be sent to the small hall, but they refused. I said that I could come later, but they said: “No, sit here.” And they kicked Tim out. I say: “You are acting very rude”, this is a quote, I said it. The next day it turned out that he had a bad temper. In fact, I defended it, so… I don’t know why my bad temper was talked about when I told the organizers that they were doing it wrong. But Dominic and I talk. I always liked it and still do. Great player. To be honest, I’m too old for conflicts. So I just wanted to clear things up. I told him: “Uncle, I told you that they did you wrong.” And he replied that he was not talking about my “bad character”, that the journalists were wrong about something. So it’s okay,” Serena said.
Serena Williams, Dominic Thiem, Petra Kvitova, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal at a charity match in Melbourne
Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
Soon, all questions about the conflict between Williams and Tim finally disappeared. Serena invited Dominik, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Petra Kvitova to her team for a charity match to raise money for the victims of the bushfires in Australia, which took place in Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open – 2020. The tennis players entered the court in different combinations and beat Caroline Wozniacki’s team, which included Corey Gauff, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Naomi Osaka. Williams and Tim played together on the court, they communicated with each other. At the same time, they helped raise $3.5 million to combat the aftermath of the fires.
There were no more conflicts between Dominic and Serena. After winning the US Open – 2020, the Austrian systematically gave up on the court. At the peak of the game’s crisis, he fell outside the top 300 in the ATP rankings. Now, 29-year-old Tim is racket number 92 in the world. At Roland Garros 2023, Dominic blew up in the first round, losing in five sets to Argentine Pedro Cachin – 3:6, 2:6, 7:6, 6:4, 2:6. The Austrian still hopes to return to the previous level. In a recent interview, Tim stated that his inspirations are Serena, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, whom he considers to be the best tennis players in history.