NEW YORK, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The American media turned on Serena Williams on Wednesday, labelling the former world number one as "classless" and "graceless" after her sullen reaction to her U.S. Open exit at the hands of Justine Henin.
Top seed Henin beat the American 7-6 6-1 in the quarter-finals for the third consecutive grand-slam event on Tuesday but a despondent Williams gave the Belgian scant praise.
"I just think she made a lot of lucky shots and I made a lot of errors," Williams said at her news conference.
"I really don't feel like talking about it. It's like I don't want to get fined. That's the only reason I came. I can't afford to pay the fines because I keep losing."
Players who fail to appear for post-match news conferences face fines from tennis officials.
Williams's words and manner were greeted with widespread disdain.
"(Williams) met the media afterward like a rattlesnake meets a ground squirrel," wrote Bill Dwyer, in the Los Angeles Times.
"If anybody was expecting perspective afterward, or maybe a gracious nod to a better effort by an opponent, forget it. We had sullen Serena. Snippy Serena. Snarly Serena."
In the New York Times, under the headline, "Williams needs a lesson in etiquette", Selena Roberts wrote: "Who's classless now?
"The grumpy, borderline nasty disposition that Williams displayed after her loss was a little jarring considering she had her own lack of preparation to blame for giving in so easily to Henin.
"Serena was bitter, angry and upset. She directed some of that at Henin. Who could use charm school now?"
In an interview with USA Network, which hosts television coverage of the U.S. Open, John Wertheim, the senior writer for Sports Illustrated magazine, described Serena's reaction as "stunning".
"There's a lot to admire about Serena but this happens again and again where we just have these completely graceless post-match (news conferences). Lucky shots? I think she means winners."
Onthebaseline.com, which specialises in women's tennis news, said Williams should probably have skipped the news conference.
"Serena's public relations department would have done better to pay the fine themselves than to allow their charge to disgrace herself as she did last night," it said.