Serena Williams called out for being a poor sport during the U.S. Open, but was she out of line, or the umpire?
Time magazine reported that during the first set of the U.S. Open, on Sept. 8, Williams was given a violation from chair umpire Carlos Ramos for illegal coaching from coach Patrick Mouratoglou. “I’m honest, I was coaching. I don’t think she looked at me, so that’s why she didn’t even think I was.” Mouratoglou said later.
After the violation, Williams told Ramos on the court, “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.” Williams lost the match to Naomi Osaka, 20, after a total of three violations — including one for smashing her racket — which added up to a fine of $17,000. She later said she felt the entire incident was “sexist.”
Many athletes have defended Williams, including tennis icon Billie Jean King and soccer player Abby Wambach.
“Serena is a 23-time Grand Slam champion, both she and her sister are very focused when they’re playing, so I don’t blame her for getting upset that the umpire accused her of being coached. On the other hand, the umpire didn’t do what umpires usually do for other players, and make an effort to de-escalate the interaction.” said Steve Nuget, local tennis player of 30 years.
While Williams’ behavior may have been heated, it certainly wasn’t outside of the norm for a frustrated tennis player, and it seems many men have done the same or more, with no fines or reprimands.
“I think Serena has always had it hard, growing up in Compton, and being female, and being black, she just had to fight and overcome hurdles every step of the way. Overall, I don’t think the umpire was entirely unfair, but he didn’t give her the same treatment other players would have gotten.” Nugent said.
The crowd jeered and backed Williams in the dispute with the umpire, but ultimately, Osaka fired an unreturnable serve and won the U.S. Open. Even during the trophy ceremony, the crowd continued to boo loudly.
Despite her frustrations, Williams showed her sportsmanship by wrapping an arm around Osaka, who was crying and calmed the crowd. “She played well, and this is her first Grand Slam,” Williams told the fans. “Let’s make this the best moment we can, we’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone credit where credit’s due. Let’s not boo anymore. We’re going to get through this. Let’s stay positive. Congratulations, Naomi. No more booing!”
After the match, Osaka was asked about the confrontation on the court, but she didn’t have more insight for them. “I don’t know what happened on the court, so, for me, I’m always going to remember the Serena that I love,” Osaka said. “It doesn’t change anything for me. She was really nice to me at the net and on the podium, so I don’t really see what would change that.”
Williams defended her choice to speak out during the match. “I’ve seen men call other umpires several things,” she told reporters. “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality … and for me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist reaction.”
“The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person [who] has emotions and wants to express themselves, and they want to be a strong woman, and they’re going to be allowed to do that because of today,” Williams continued, “Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”