Controversy Emerges at the U.S. Open Final

6 mins read

After September 8th’s U.S. Open tennis final, Serena Williams, who is widely considered to be the world’s best tennis player, still finds herself in need of an additional Grand Slam win to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 singles titles. Williams’s bid for the U.S. Open title was hampered by the phenomenal performance of 20-year-old Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka. Osaka’s win was historic both for her and for Japan, as she is the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. While the results were shocking considering Williams’ outstanding career, they were not what made headlines.

Carlos Ramos, the umpire for the final match, was at the center of much of the controversy. The first complication arose when Ramos issued a code violation to Williams when he noticed her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, making hand gestures on the sideline during the match. At Grand Slam events, players are prohibited from receiving any sort of coaching during both the warm-up and the match. In response to the violation, Williams retorted, “You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life…I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” Mouratoglou told ESPN that he was coaching and that, “All coaches are coaching throughout the match.”

This was a high stakes match, so anything and everything was going to be scrutinized. Likely, the sideline coaching was unsolicited by Williams, though to the umpire, it was reason to give a code violation without even considering the possibility that the information had not even been received by Williams. In light of this, Williams’s anger with regard to the violation is completely understandable, especially considering that she was not at fault.

The next violation against Williams came when she broke her racquet by slamming it on the court out of frustration at both the game and the umpire. The violation was straightforward and there was no controversy as a result, though it certainly furthered Williams’s frustration because it resulted in the loss of a point. Articles were quick to turn the racquet incident into a slam against Serena with titles such as, “Serena Williams unleashes furious rant at umpire as she loses US Open 2018 final to Naomi Osaka” in the Telegraph and Tim Benz’s article from Trib Live titled, “Self-absorbed Serena Williams an embarrassment in U.S. Open final.” These articles focused solely on Williams’ reactions, as opposed to the match as a whole.

Controversy spurred when Ramos gave Williams a full game penalty after a third code violation, cited as verbal abuse, after she argued with him saying, “You owe me an apology…You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.” This full game penalty may not have happened had Ramos better communicated with Williams and perhaps warned her about the fact that her next penalty would result in a much more serious punishment.

At the end of the final, when Osaka won, the arena was filled with heated emotions. While some were happy to see Osaka win her first Grand Slam title, the majority of the crowd directed boos at the umpire. Looking at the post-match photos of the two competitors, it is almost impossible to determine who won and who lost because both appear very emotional and solemn. Though Williams lost, she remained sportsmanlike during the awards ceremony and told the audience to stop the booing and recognize the important moment.

In a post-game press conference, Williams argued that Ramos was being sexist during the match with his officiating. She went on to say, “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’”

Serena Williams has had to deal with various other sexist situations in her career, such as the French Open’s issue with her Nike catsuit. The suit, which was a compression suit designed to prevent blood clots, was criticized by the President of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli, who said, “one must respect the game and place,” alluding to the fact that he thinks women should continue wearing a more traditional tennis outfit, which includes a skirt. Williams continues her fight against sexism for both tennis and for women as a whole by speaking out about what she sees and experiences within the game.

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