Serena Williams was fined £8,000 after smashing her racket into one of the Wimbledon championship courts four times in a few seconds and leaving divots in the surface, Sportsmail can reveal.
The decision to sanction the seven-time champion was taken after video evidence was reviewed by the All England Club’s hierarchy and the referee’s office.
The offence took place towards the end of a practice session between Serena — the star of Centre Court again on Tuesday as she won her singles quarter-final and mixed doubles with Andy Murray — and sister Venus on the Friday before the tournament and was captured by a Daily Mail photographer.
‘Serena was not hitting the ball well and could not seem to get a rally going,’ said photographer Mark Large. ‘A couple of minutes before the end of the practice she missed a shot, turned around and smashed her racket into the surface.’
The pair were hitting on Court 15 — between Centre Court and Court 1. After miscuing a shot she stood on the baseline and smashed her racket into the lush new turf four times in quick succession.
There were said to be three areas of damage and a groundsman had to clear up shards from her racket after she had left the court.
Murray is believed to have seen the incident as he waited with his entourage to use the court, but did not interact with his mixed-doubles partner.
Williams wrote an email of apology to the club but was still fined for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The charge sheet stated the offence took place on the Sunday before the tournament, but that cannot have been the case because all championship courts were closed to competitors then.
Players are restricted to the Aorangi Park area on that day.
A club spokesperson explained the date on the form was a generic one to represent the fact the offence had happened before the start of the tournament.
The long inquiry process is in part an indication of the extreme sensitivity with which any incident involving the one authentic superstar of the women’s game is handled.
Insiders have told Sportsmail that one of the reasons for the delay was that damaging a championship court in practice was unprecedented. Given the profile of the player, there was also the desire to back up any accusation with video evidence.
Williams made light of the incident on Tuesday. ‘I haven’t really thought about it and I was focused on my match today,’ she said. ‘I just threw my racket.’
Asked what kind of damage she might have caused to deserve such a fine, she responded: ‘I guess if you could tell me, I would appreciate it. I have always been an Avenger in my heart. Maybe I’m super strong, I don’t know.’
The length of deliberation about how to handle the episode is highly unusual. On Monday, for example, Frenchman Benoit Paire was officially warned for smashing his racket on Court 18 just before 2pm. By 8pm the same day, he had been fined £1,600, although of course the incident happened during a match.
It is standard practice at Wimbledon not to publish details of fines until late in the day, out of respect for players who do not want distractions before they play matches.
It is not known what sparked Serena’s frustration on the day, but she has spoken during the tournament of having to play catch-up ahead of Wimbledon due to knee problems.
She was only able to start practising properly around 10 days before the event.