NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former tennis bad boy John McEnroe said Serena Williams got a raw deal on the foot-fault call against her in the semi-final of last year's U.S. Open that triggered an ugly outburst and cost her the match.
With her opponent Kim Clijsters on the brink of victory, Williams was called for a foot-fault on a second serve to go match point down.
"I don't think the person should have been calling the foot fault at that situation," McEnroe said during a conference call on Wednesday to promote his broadcast booth partnership with brother Patrick McEnroe at this year's U.S. Open.
Fired up by the judgment, Williams erupted in anger and yelled at the lineswoman who reported her for verbal abuse.
Having already received a warning for smashing a racket, Williams was handed an automatic point penalty for a second violation which gave Clijsters the match and paved the way for her victory in the final.
McEnroe, who had a reputation for arguing calls during his career, said he thought it was a questionable judgment and that the lineswoman should have warned Williams ahead of time.
"It was very close. I wasn't sure it was a foot fault," said McEnroe, who insisted Williams would not have gained a significant edge even if she had inched forward on the serve.
"At the very least that person in my opinion should have said to Serena, if it was happening regularly ... 'hey, listen, the next one I'm going to have to call.' That's my opinion."
McEnroe said the reaction by Williams, who shook a ball in her clenched fist and threatened "to shove it down" the throat of the lineswoman, was an aberration for the American.
"I've never seen her lose it like that. There's no doubt that she lost it far worse than I've ever seen her lose it. I dare to say even worse than I've ever lost it," McEnroe said.
"I had to think back in the memory banks, and I think she possibly could have even topped me there."
Editing by Frank Pingue