I’m with Serena.
She was treated unfairly at the US Open final against Japan’s Naomi Osaka by chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
It was a case of double standards.
Before you hit the outrage button on your twitter feed or the comments section I would ask that you either watch the entire match to see the pressure cooker build-up (and stay through ’til the very end where Serena implores the crowd to stop their booing that had been directed at the umpire, not her opponent as incorrectly claimed in some circles here) or read through each of the articles linked below.
What strikes me is the stark difference between commentary from the US and Australia.
Commentators calling the game on ESPN were unanimous in their disbelief at what was unfolding.
Not because of Serena’s performance, but by that of the experienced umpire, Carlos Ramos.
Those commentators included tennis legend Chris Evert and former professional Mary Jo Fernandez.
Add to the mix comments by tennis great, Billie Jean King, and BBC commentator and former player, Virginia Wade, and you start to see a consistent reading of what took place.
The US Tennis Association president, Katrina Adams, took the most unusual step of issuing a statement after the trophy presentation.
It should also be mentioned the umpire was not invited onto the stage to be thanked, as is the norm at trophy presentations.
USTA President: “What Serena did on the podium today showed a great deal of class and sportsmanship. This was Naomi;s moment and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it”
Here in Australia, Serena has been widely criticised for robbing her opponent, Naomi Osaka, of what should have been the highlight of her career so far: she’d just beaten her idol.
The script was not supposed to go like this — that’s true —but it was the umpire inserting himself into the game that robbed Osaka of the limelight she deserved.
Andy Murray once accused the same umpire, at a match at the Rio Olympics, of wanting to be the star of the show, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Shortly after yesterday’s final, the ABC Offsiders panel and host roundly criticised Serena.
Much of the commentary in other outlets adopted the same tone.
I agree that Serena broke the rules and suffered the consequences. But the point Serena argued is that the same rules are broken at every tournament without those same consequences being meted out.
It’s a perfect example of double standards.
Ramos’s reputation as a stickler
Ramos is one of the most experienced umpires on the tour.
He has “gold badge” status, reserved for the best in the business. He is also known as a stickler for the rules.
Again, all good, but Ramos should “stickle” for every player equally. If he did, Serena would not have had a leg to stand on.
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Murray and Nick Kyrgios have all had their moments with the umpire.
At the 2017 French Open, Djokovic accused Ramos of “losing his mind”.
This year at Wimbledon, he accused Ramos of “double standards” in a series of animated conversations during a quarter final match against Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
Vision of the incident with Novak Djokovic
He never had a game awarded against him.
In 2016 Kyrgios suggested Ramos showed “incredible bias” and continued to question the umpire before saying a code violation awarded to him was “f***ing bullshit”. But there was no game awarded to Kyrgios’s opponent.
Murray at the Rio Olympic Games accused Ramos of “stupid umpiring” in his semi-final match against Kei Nishikori and went on to say, “if you want to the be the star of the show, that’s fine”.
No point deduction.
There are a number of other examples you can read through in the following thread too:
@AgentTinsley: I think I’ve proven beyond a doubt the blatant hipocrisy here.
Take a walk in Serena’s shoes
Writing in the Independent, chief sports writer Jonathan Liew, invites us to take a walk in Serena’s shoes to see what led to yesterday’s anger — from her personal history to the Flushing Meadows crowd and the global social media audience.
His invitation comes with a caveat, “that to empathise is not to condone, and to explain is not to excuse,” but “let’s try and see this whole episode from Serena’s perspective”.
It paints a picture of a five-year-old girl hitting balls with her sister, Venus, as they were called “Blackie One” and “Blackie Two”.
Jump forward to a 19-year-old Serena playing at the Indian Wells tournament while the crowd boos, shouting the N-word.
Now it’s 2018, and at 36 she has a lifetime of experience that tells her not only are women often treated differently but being black and a woman means you attract extra scrutiny.
Washington Post columnist, Sally Jenkins, says Ramos “managed to rob not one, but two players in the women’s US Open final”.
I agree the umpire was only doing his job, but it’s hypocrisy to claim that, but not demand to know why he has not been so meticulous in countless other matches like those detailed above.
To be outraged only when Serena verbally threatens the umpire, and not countless others, says this is not about what actually happened, it’s more about what we think of Serena.
Former umpire Richard Ings argues in the Sydney Morning Herald it is Serena who owes an apology to the umpire:
“I can never truly appreciate the real sexism and racism that Williams will have absolutely faced in her life and career. Her iconic status speaking out on racism and sexism off the court is inspiring. She is a positive role model in every sense,” he writes.
“However, Williams faced neither sexism or racism in this grand slam final. We should not let her record, as glowing as it is, overshadow the fact that on this day, in this match, Williams was wrong.”
It is a little strange for Ings to concede on the one hand to not knowing what it must be like to face a lifetime of sexism and racism but then on the other claiming enough expertise to tell Serena what sexism and racism really is, and that yesterday was an example of neither of them.
Perhaps Serena can add it to her list of experiences of being a loud, forthright, black woman unafraid of standing her ground.
The words of Claudia Rankine, writing in the New York Times back in 2015, ring as true today as they did then:
“For black people, there is an unspoken script that demands the humble absorption of racist assaults, no matter the scale, because whites need to believe that it’s no big deal,” she writes.
“But Serena refuses to keep to that script. Somehow, along the way she made a decision to be excellent while still being Serena.
“She would feel what she feels in front of everyone, in response to anyone.
“And in doing so, we actually see her. She shows us her joy, her humour and, yes, her rage. She gives us the whole range of what it is to be human, and there are those who can’t bear it, who can’t tolerate the humanity of an ordinary extraordinary person.”