"Openly cheated, got celebrated by media" - Tennis fans recall controversial "hand incident" in Serena Williams' French Open loss to Justine Henin
American legend Serena Williams played one of the most controversial matches of her career against Justine Henin at the 2003 French Open. Fighting for a place in the finals of the Paris Major, the Belgian beat Williams and went on to win her maiden Grand Slam singles title.
Henin, the fourth seed at the tournament, won the first set convincingly. However, the American quickly staged a comeback in the second set to force a decider.
During the third set, Williams was about to serve at 4-2 but noticed Henin raise her hand, signaling her to stop, as the crowd was not silent yet. This led to the 23-time Grand Slam winner missing her serve, thus earning a fault.
Upon requesting another first serve, Williams' plea was rejected by the umpire since he did not notice Henin's gesture. Much to Williams' dismay, the Belgian also kept quiet instead of rectifying the umpire.
Henin eventually won the match 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, and also beat Kim Clijsters in the final to win her first Roland Garros title.
Recently, a clip from the 20-year-old match surfaced on social media, prompting tennis fans to once again express their anger at the incident. Several fans suggested that Serena Williams had to overcome many such "obstacles" to succeed in her career.
"Serena’s career is so wild when you just sit back and think about all the obstacles," one fan tweeted.
Another fan expressed their anger at Henin for "openly cheating." They also criticized the tennis media for "celebrating" the Belgian.
"Openly cheated and got celebrated by tennis media for the rest of her career. She’s lucky she did it in 2003."
Fans also claimed to vividly remember the incident and stated that their respect for Henin had dwindled after this match.
"I remember exactly where I was when this happened. Never looked at Henin the same way after that."
Many others continued to criticize the Belgian for her actions in the match.
"Henin was so wrong for this," one tweet read.
Below are a few more fan reactions:
"I’m a little disappointed with her" - What Serena Williams had to say after Justine Henin's controversial hand incident
Serena Williams was on a 33-match winning streak when she faced Justine Henin in the 2003 French Open semifinals. The defending champion at Roland Garros, the American was hoping to win her fifth consecutive Grand Slam singles title in Paris.
Williams' eventual loss to Henin reduced her to tears in the post-match press conference. Reflecting on the match and the controversial incident, Williams expressed her disappointment in the Belgian.
While the American said the incident wasn't the turning point of the match, she did accuse Henin of lying.
"I’m a little disappointed with her. It wasn’t the turning point of the match. I should have still won the game, but lying and fabricating is not fair," Serena Williams said.