Perception is everything.

Action speaks louder than words.

Three strikes and you're out.

Given the ever-pervasive and expressive nature by which those phrases have come to explain and exemplify so many of our everyday feelings and reactions to virtually everything around us, is it totally implausible that Serena Williams would be on the edge as she was on the U.S. Open stage last week?

All those elements--and the emotions born of them--came to bear for Serena in her winner-take-all, grudge match outing against Kim Clijsters.

Lets not forget the likely repressed on-court nightmare of 2001 in a loss to Jennifer Capriati. The calls made and actions taken against Williams by one referee were deemed so egregious, tour officials moved to suspend the ref.

"She's obviously anti-Serena," Williams said of umpire Mariana Alves that night on the very same court where her meltdown against Clijsters took place. "I feel very angry and bitter right now. I felt cheated. I just feel robbed."

Add all those still rather raw emotions to the nightmare memories of 2000, when chants of "kick her butt Lindsay (Davenport)," reigned down incessantly on big sis Venus as she sought to win her first U.S. Open title against Davenport before a nearly all-white, not totally adoring U.S. Open crowd and... well you start to capture the potential volatility of last week's rather controversial moment.

Clearly, Serena Williams may have taken center court at the site of some of her most painful memories with a defensive chip on her shoulder. And yes, she may have reacted to her night's adversity in a way unbecoming of a champ of her stature. Yet when you consider these three instances she's lived through in that very venue, doesn't it all become a bit easier to understand? --Glenn Minnis