Douglas Robson writes, on Tennis.com:
...I was surprised to see that Mariana Alves of Portugal was in the chair for Venus's match against Jankovic. Alves was the umpire in the infamous Serena-Jennifer Capriati quarterfinal match at the 2004 U.S. Open, when Alves overruled the lineswoman, reversing a call that television replays clearly showed was accurate. Serena went ballistic and eventually lost the match, USTA officials apologized, Alves was suspended from officiating any other matches that year, and the incident catalyzed the eventual introduction of instant replay.
Considering what Serena said at the time --“I'd prefer she not umpire at my court anymore. She's obviously anti-Serena,”--I was interested to see Alves officiating a Williams sister match of any kind. But I guess I just haven't been very observant. According to WTA officials, Serena told reporters at Moscow last year that she had moved on from the 2004 and would be fine with Alves umpiring her matches. She has since officiated several of Serena's matches, I was told.
Robson is right; he hasn't noticed Alves in the chair numerous times when the Williams sisters have competed. But there is more to this story than whether Robson (or anyone) has been paying attention during the last four years. I have been angry about the consequences of the 2004 incident for some time. Notice I said "the consequences," not the incident itself.
Yes, Alves made a serious error. But there was more to the story than her error, and the tennis press--whether through typical media carelessness or quite possibly some other motive--covered it up. The umpires' association violated its own rules in assigning Alvez--at the time, a lower-level official--to umpire the Williams-Capriati match. She had been working for many hours and was not supposed to be in the chair again until she had had sufficient rest. Alves accepted an assignment that she probably felt pressured to take.
Instead of apologizing to Williams for violating its own policies, the association issued a small statement about what had happened, and made Alves the scapegoat. She deserved some consequences, but she didn't deserve the punishment she received, and which she was given to cover the collective ass of her employers.
But that--as unprofessional as it is--is only part of the problem. The other part is Williams' irrational assumption that Alves was "anti-Serena." Umpires make decision all the time that infuriate players, and--if they wish to--players can pull the thread until they believe that an umpire's error cost them the match. I understand that type of frustration, but it is not the same as claiming that an umpire was personally out to destroy you. And--going back to the content of Robson's article--the last time I checked, the Williams sisters were not in charge of tournaments: Umpires are assigned without seeking the approval of players.
Alves is now a gold badge umpire, and a good one. What happened in 2004 was unfortunate, but the real story is more complex and much messier than people have been led to believe.