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Serena and chair umpire both at fault

Tennis must fix the double standard moving forward

The 2018 U.S. Open women’s final wasn’t without drama and with a few friends having reached out to me for my “take” on how it ended – given my tennis background – here’s my thoughts.

I wanted to bury the lead and start by talking about Naomi Osaka because she is incredibly talented and so much fun to watch. At just 20 years old, not only did she win the U.S. Open, she made history. But I will get to that. I will.

Failing to mention Osaka’s run to the title is a disservice to the sport of tennis. Don’t let Serena Williams and the chair umpire overshadow that.

But you came here to read about that, so that’s where we will start.

It is possible for both sides of an argument to be wrong and quite simply, that’s what you have here.

Williams was given three code violations for three different reasons, all of which, based on the letter of the law, were completely warranted.

It was Williams’ third violation that caused the whole incident because it resulted in a game penalty, meaning that Osaka was now up two games in a deciding set, in which she did not break Williams’ serve.

The violation was assessed for verbal abuse of an umpire – in which ESPN audio equipment picks up Williams calling the chair umpire a “liar” and a “thief” – and that’s where the technicalities begin.

The scale of the match is what ignites this firestorm.

Chair umpire Carlos Ramos is a well-established chair umpire that is notorious for being a stickler when it comes to the rules.

Here is where I think it becomes questionable. Chair umpires in tennis are meant to de-escalate situations like this and Ramos doesn’t do that.

Ramos doesn’t bother to explain to Willams that he is not attacking her character, which is what she was claiming when the initial argument started.

Calling a game penalty in a grand slam final is practically unheard of and I think it bears the question, if Ramos would have told Williams that he had had enough, would she have continued?

In most similar situations, chair umpires will issue a ‘soft warning’ in which they will let the player know they are bordering on a verbal abuse call.

As for the other two warnings, the first was a coaching warning.

Player’s coaches – Williams’ being Patrick Mouratoglou – sit in the player’s box which is quite close to the court.

As backwards as it sounds, coaches are not allowed to coach during a tennis match. It’s a rule that needs to be changed. It is. It happens all the time and is called infrequently and inconsistently.

Mouratoglou tweeted post-match that he was in fact coaching, admitting guilt and stirring the pot.

The second violation was for smashing her racket, which isn’t a call that’s up for debate. It’s a penalty. Clear as day.

However, Williams was adamant that she did not receive any coaching and would never “cheat” in such a way, badgering the official relentlessly until she was assessed the third violation. She eventually brings her daughter into the discussion.

That’s where I think Williams gets out of line. Going after an official continuously is never a recipe for getting what you want. Her daughter is also completely irrelevant to the conversation and serves more as a red herring than as a logical argument to her morale standing on court.

Double standard

The conclusions she made in her post-match press conference about the double standard in the women’s game versus the men’s game are plenty valid.

As I said earlier, there are rules that need to be changed. Along with the coaching rule, a women’s player was given a warning for taking off and putting back on her shirt while on court.

There is a double standard there – and elsewhere in the women’s game – as that is something the men do all the time, sitting on the bench during a changeover without complaint.

Williams also went on to argue that women are called for more violations than men, which in the context of the 2018 U.S. Open wasn’t true. The men were called for 86 violations while women were called for 22 over the course of the tournament, according to Christopher Clary of the New York Times.

There is historical evidence of men getting away with more, but with different chair umpires. Ramos has had numerous spats with plenty of high-profile players in the men’s game.

Past U.S. Open outburst

The U.S. Open and Williams have had there issues before. Back in 2009 Williams reportedly threatened a line judge over a foot-fault call during a semifinal match.

She went on to lose that match.

Naomi Osaka

Get to know the name Naomi Osaka. The 20-year-old is the first Japanese born player to win a grand slam singles title ever. EVER.

She’s unique in her quieter, quirky characteristics. But her game doesn’t match her shyer personality.

Now the world’s No. 7 player, Osaka is an aggressive baseline player, meaning she is capable of stepping into any ball and ripping it for a winner at any given time.

It’s a play style that is incredibly fun to watch and when you add in her big serve, look out.

The women’s game is incredibly topsy-turvy with parity and the newest young gun could very well be considered a favorite to win the next major given that it is also played on a hard surface, which favors her playing style.

Williams did the right thing during the post-match interviews, quelling the boos from the crowd and giving the rightful praise to Osaka that she deserved.

The outburst may overshadow Osaka’s first major win, but don’t be fooled into thinking that she wasn’t the better player than Serena Williams that day.

Contact the writer

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Twitter – @CarterEckl

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