Auckland Classic organisers have appealed for Serena Williams to return next year despite the world number two lashing out at conditions following her shock second-round exit.
Williams said she “abhorred” the Auckland wind and called the conditions the “least favourite” she had played in after losing 6-4, 6-7 (7/5), 6-4 to world number 72 Madison Brengle on Wednesday.
As she prepared to go to Melbourne for the Australian Open, where she will attempt to win an Open-era record 23rd Grand Slam title, Williams said she would like to “get to somewhere better, some warm weather”.
“I really abhorred the conditions. It was way too much for me. This is almost not a great opportunity to assess your game,” she said.
“I’m trying to think of a word that’s not obscene but that’s pretty much how I played,” added the American.
The New Zealand press were critical of Williams’ comments, with Fairfax Media saying the appearance of the tennis great was “a let-down from lots of perspectives”.
“She avoided sponsorship and media opportunities throughout her time in Auckland and you’d have to say Maria Sharapova gave the tournament more bang for its buck when she came in 2011,” wrote Fairfax tennis writer David Long.
In the New Zealand Herald, Michael Burgess said Williams “was far from a role model” with her reaction the loss in which she made, by one count, a staggering 88 unforced errors.
– ‘Fair bit of damage’ –
“In just her second — and final — interview at the tournament Williams spent most of the three minutes and thirty seconds trying to attack the credibility of the event,” Burgess said in a column headlined “Williams failed to deliver”.
“She gave almost no credit to her opponent, and the focus on the conditions overshadowed Brengle’s tenacious play.”
Tournament director Karl Budge admitted Williams’ outburst could affect player interest for next year, but said he still wanted her back.
“It does do a fair bit of damage but probably more for next year,” Budge told reporters.
“It’s around how that message is delivered in the dressing room and we don’t want to get a reputation as a windy tournament.”
Budge said he had not spoken to Williams following her defeat but would meet her team at the Australian Open to discuss a possible return to Auckland.
“I’ll sit down and have that conversation in Melbourne. We’ll go away and chat to her team,” he said.
“I hope she appreciates what we did for her and we’ll have a conversation in Melbourne and go from there.”
The Auckland Classic not only lost top seed Serena Williams but also her sister Venus, the second seed, who pulled out after her first round match complaining of a sore right arm.
But Budge was complimentary about how Venus Williams handled herself.
“She was very apologetic. She’s all class, Venus,” he said.
“While we’re very disappointed she’s had to withdraw with injury, I think if there’s anyone that probably has a little bit of leeway it’s probably Venus Williams.”