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Serena ‘likely’ to escape ban for US Open outburst

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:49

World No.1 Serena Williams is in line for a significant fine but is ‘likely’ to be free to play at the Australian Open despite her US Open tirade, ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said.

The American for her semi-final explosion at a line judge for calling a second-serve foot fault that gave Kim Clijsters match point before being given a point penalty to hand the eventual champion the match.

Grand Slam administrator Bill Babcock, who has been tasked with deciding how to punish Serena further, is expected to give the Grand Slam committee his recommendation on Monday or Tuesday.

But Ricci Bitti, who sits on the Grand Slam committee with the four Grand Slam presidents, believes that a ban from the Australian Open or any other majors is not the answer.

“I don’t think it would make much sense,” said the ITF president, “because it would penalize the people handing out the punishment.

“For the Grand Slam committee to exclude her from a Grand Slam doesn’t seem likely.”

Williams has already been fined $10,000 for her profanity-laden outburst, and a further fine from the ITF – the likely alternative course of action – could be much greater.

“A significant financial penalty makes much more sense,” RIcci Bitti continued. “But it has to be significant enough for the fans. Of course it may not be significant for Serena Williams, who earns tens of millions.

By winning the season-ending WTA Tour Championships in Doha last weekend, Williams broke the record for single-season prize money in women’s tennis by topping $6.5 million in 2009, bringing her career prize money to $28.5 million – the most ever earned by a female athlete.

Ricci Bitti, who is also a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s executive committee, has been asked to investigate Andre Agassi’s recent admission to taking crystal meth in 1997 and lying to the ATP in order to avoid a suspension.

“The WADA code is our reference point and in every doping case the rules are quite clear. There is an eight-year period for sanctions to apply,” Ricci Bitti said.

“In terms of the regulations, there is nothing that can be done because we’re past the eight-year period. It’s more upsetting than anything else – for our sport and for the players.”

The Italian added that the ATP should have a dossier on the case, refusing to rule out any further action.

“We’ll see what happens,” he said.

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