NEW YORK - Serena Williams' U.S. Open title defense ended in bizarre fashion Saturday night, when she was docked a point on match point after yelling and shaking her racket at an official who called a foot fault.
Williams, the second seed, lost to unseeded, unranked Kim Clijsters 6-4, 7-5 in a taut semifinal.
With Williams serving at 5-6, 15-30 in the second set, she faulted on her first serve. On the second serve, a line judge called a foot fault, making it a double-fault, a call rarely, if ever, seen at that stage of any match, let alone a Grand Slam semifinal.
That made the score 15-40, putting Clijsters one point from victory.
Instead of stepping to the baseline to serve again, Williams went over and shouted and cursed at the line judge, pointing at her and shaking a ball at her.
"If I could, I would take this ... ball and shove it down your ... throat and kill you," Williams said.
The line judge went over to the chair umpire, and tournament referee Brian Earley joined in the conversation. Williams then went over and said to the line judge: "I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious? Are you serious? I didn't say that."
Williams already had been give a code violation warning when she broke her racket after losing the first set. So the chair umpire awarded a penalty point to Clijsters, ending the match.
"It just happened that point penalty was match point," Earley said. "It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct."
When the ruling was announced, Williams walked around the net to the other end of the court to shake hands with a stunned Clijsters, who did not appear to understand what had happened.
"I used to have a real temper, and I've gotten a lot better," Williams said at her news conference. "So I know you don't believe me, but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed."
In tonight's final, 2005 Open champion Clijsters plays No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-3, 6-3 in the other rain-delayed semi.
Clijsters, 26, making a joyful return after a two-year retirement, had mostly outplayed Williams up to match point. Clijsters, a wild-card entry, advanced to her first Slam final since she won her only major, the 2005 Open.
"I am still in shock," she said after dispatching Williams.
Until the fateful point that decided the match, the action was worthy of a final.
Clijsters, in a mere 35 minutes, had done what no other player had accomplished in this tournament: She won a set off Williams.
And with the first-set defeat, Williams threw her racket to the court in disgust. She picked it up and, still angry, slammed it to the court for effect. This time, she mangled the frame.
As Williams tried to channel her anger, Clijsters appeared far more relaxed.
Nadal in control
With rain clouds gathering and the prospect of a daunting match today, Rafael Nadal was a portrait of ruthless efficiency, needing a little more than half an hour to finish off Fernando Gonzalez in their rain-delayed quarterfinal and advance to the semis for a second consecutive year.
The wind was swirling and the grandstands half full when Thursday's rain-halted match resumed with Nadal up a set and 3-2 in the second-set tiebreaker.
The 90 seconds that followed were calamitous for Gonzalez. He blasted three successive forehands well out of court and netted a backhand service return to hand Nadal a two-set lead.
After that, he mounted only nominal resistance, and Nadal had a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-2), 6-0 win.
"Lucky for me," Nadal said of the short workday.
Nadal insists that the knee problems that sidelined him for three months this year are healed, but it's clear his current abdominal injury is limiting the power and risk he's willing to invest in his serve.
"I have only little problem in the abdominal," Nadal conceded during a generally cheerful news conference
However, he eventually said, "I prefer not to speak (about) the stomach."
Men's semifinals: Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Juan Martin del Potro (6); Roger Federer (1) vs. Novak Djokovic (4)
Women's final:Caroline Wozniacki (9) vs. Kim Clijsters
TV: Nadal vs. del Potro, noon, ESPN2; Federer vs. Djokovic,4 p.m., Ch. 10; women's final, 9 p.m., ESPN2
Weather: Partly cloudy. High around 80. Winds 5-10 mph.