The 2018 US Open has finished, yet the out come from the Women’s Finals match is the 2nd biggest headline across the sports world, (Football is still #1, no matter what happens). But what happened in Flushing Meadows this past week brought forth allegations of sexism, cheating, and and poor conduct, involving possibly the greatest American Tennis player of all time.
The match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka was a great match. Both players showed why they deserved to be in the Final pairing, exchanging points and sets throughout the match. However in the 2nd set with Serena up 1-0, umpire Carlos Ramos issues a waring to Williams claiming she was receiving Illegal coaching from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Serena became furious with the allegations claiming she had not seen her coach trying to give her instructions, and proceeded to argue with the chair umpire. After things cooled down, play continued and Williams began to take over the match winning the next 2 games going up 3-1 in the 2nd set. Osaka would come back to win the next game, and after hitting the ball into the net, Serena broke her racquet on the court out of frustration for her loosing the game and having been given a waring from Ramos.
After breaking her racquet, Ramos assessed another code violation, (racquet abuse), penalty to Williams, taking a point away from her in the next match. At this point Williams was even more upset than she had been before, verbally attacking the chair umpire telling him he was a “Theif” and that he “Stole”a point from her. Lets just be clear, its not the worse thing a Tennis player has called an official, and it wont be the worst thing that is said to an official going forward in Tennis. In the next set, Osaka is able to win the game with a nice forehand shot, putting her up 4-3 in the set. While on the bench, Williams continued to talk to Ramos in a derogatory way, telling him “if he didn’t apologize to her that she would not want to hear him speak to her”, and telling him “You will never work another one of my match’s in your career again”. Again, its really not the worst things that could be said, however in the heat of the moment, Ramos assessed Williams her 3rd code violation of the night for Verbal Abuse towards the referee and docked an entire game from Williams. After this, both the tournament referee and the WTA supervisor had to come out onto the court and talk with Williams, however after a brief interaction, nothing was changed and Williams was still penalized for her actions.
Serena would win the next game pulling herself to 5-4, but continued to complain to the WTA official on hand. In the next set, Osaka would hit a beautiful serve on double championship point and take the match, becoming the 2nd youngest US Open Champion ever, and the 1st Japanese born woman to win the US Open title. During the trophy presentation however, the crowd showered Osaka with boos and expressed their anger for what had happened with Williams, rather than celebrating Osakas win. Osaka would actually apologize to the crowd during the presentation saying she was “Sorry for how the game ended and that she wished it had ended differently.” Williams did come to the defense of Osaka in the moment asking the crowd to stop booing her and being mad that she had won the title. After the match, Williams talked about how she felt attacked because she was a women, how this would have never happened to a man, and how she thinks their are double standards in the Tennis community that need to be addressed.
So now that you know the full story, I want to look at the facts.
- Serena Williams was caught cheating: I know a lot of her fans will look at this and go “But she never saw him make the signs and she never took his advice, how could she have cheated?” Well, her coach came out and publicly admitted that he was trying to coach Williams from the Box which is normally allowed in Women’s Tennis except in Grand Slam matches. Williams is a 23-time Grand Slam champion and her coach has been Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been with Williams since 2012, has been there for 10 of her 23 Grand Slam wins. This quote is from and article on the Independent written by Paul Newman.
- She did violate the code both times she received penalties: It clearly states that players cannot break equipment on the court, or verbally abuse anyone on the court including opponents, fans, and especially referees. This quote is from the same article before by Newman. 3. Serena was ahead in the 2nd set when the penalty happened:
This one speaks for itself. Serena was ahead in the 2nd set when she was address her first penalty. While I believe that the situation defiantly created a distraction and a challenge for Williams to continue her play, it was clear during the rest of the match that her focus was not 100% on the match.
What does this all mean for Tennis? Well going forward this situation will have to be handled and something will need to be done. The USTA fined Williams $17,000 for her outbursts and violations. This means that the governing body of Tennis ultimately agreed with Ramos’ decisions on the code violations. However, maybe letting the coaches work with there players during these type of event might not be a bad idea. In every other sport, you are allowed to have your coach help you every step of the way. One way to avoid this form happening again is to allow coaches to coach their athletes when they are not on the court or in-between sets.
Also, Tennis needs to take a look at itself as a whole and get better. Personally I don’t think that Ramos was doing this to Williams because she was a women, however there have been instances in recent memory in tennis showing their is a double standard when it comes to men and women on the court. Alize Cornet was assessed a court violation penalty after she changed she shirt, because it was on backwards, and the officials thought that was a “disrespect” to the game, while eventual champion Novak Djokovic and John Isner were both shirtless for many minutes during their match up on the court and nothing happened to them. Who cares if a woman has to change shirts during a match, and is it really that different from men? I don’t think any women is going to willingly flash 20,000 people watching live or the million watching on TV. It was 95 degrees on the courts and it makes sense that players needed to change.
At the end of the day I think there is blame for both sides. The blame for Ramos is that he could have handled the situation better than he did, and gone down and spoken to Williams face to face, away from the crowd and cameras and discussed what was going on out of the public eye.
As for Serena Williams, she could have handled the situation better than she did. She did not need to heckle the referee the way she did. She did not need to continue to argue with Ramos after the 1st warning. She did not need to break her racquet on the court after missing a point. She did not need to make such a big deal about the allegations, especially when her coach admitted to the cheating. And most importantly she did not need to steal the spotlight from Naomi Osaka. That is one thing I feel has been lost in all this is that Osaka won! She made history on Sunday and nobody seems to care. We should be celebrating her accomplishments, rather then pointing the finger of blame at others. At the end of the day, Osaka is the Champ, Serena is still the GOAT of Tennis, and life will move on, but going forward, everyone in this situation could have and will be more prepared to handle a situation like this if it should ever arise again.