Several things went wrong during the US Open Women’s Finals at Flushing Meadows. Coaching on every point should be allowed in tennis as a matter of right. But things turned heated up and the resultant burst by Serena, the losing finalist with her flare-ups as she screamed and broke the racket to show her anger. When a woman is emotional, she is hysterical and she is penalised for it. When a man does the same, he is called outspoken and there are no repercussions. Why this differentiation in Women’s tennis circuit?
Once the raging emotions surrounding one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals in the recent history settles down, it is worth examining the events that transpired between Serena Williams and the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, at the US Open 2018.
Williams could have kept her composure. She went on to argue that she was wrongly being called out for cheating, and accused Ramos of sexism. She may not have realised that in the US Open, men received 23 fines for code violations compared to nine for women, or that men have frequently been slapped with such violations in other Grand Slams too, including by Ramos. Most of all, she didn’t understand that the following things could be true all at once: Williams did not cheat, Mouratoglou did indeed coach.
Serena Williams may have thought that yet again, here was someone who wanted to stop her with no faults. It was a poor judgement on her part, but it helps to look at it from her perspective as well. Williams’ importance as a tennis icon, woman, and working mother is far too great. She faces expectations that we can barely imagine, and she lives up to them. But maybe not always.
An Australian cartoonist faced withering criticism for portraying tennis superstar Serena Williams using, what Harry Potter author JK Rowling described as racist and sexist tropes. Mark Knight’s caricature, published in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, showed a butch and fat-lipped Williams throwing a temper tantrum at the US Open. In the midst of losing US Open final, the 23-time Grand Slam champion smashed her racquet and called the umpire a thief and a liar.
The tantrums on the court will always be somewhat agitating for the ultimate loser and caused unsportswomen like attitude in the end and created a stir.
Of course, the final was not the final that everybody expected. We agree that the girls have to be treated the same as the men, win the same money. They made a big effort to play these kinds of tournaments and better council should prevail after all.
It was a drama-filled conclusion to a final that was rich with storylines but will now go down as one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time. There was much riding on the match for both women, with Osaka bidding to become the first man or woman from Japan to lift a Grand Slam singles title and Williams poised to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 major titles.
In the end, it was Osaka making history but on a day of bizarre events, her victory will only be a footnote to what is sure to go down as one of the most infamous matches ever played at Flushing Meadows. The chaotic finish filled with screaming, tears and jeers cast a cloud over what should have been Osaka’s shining moment.
Williams’ implosion was not a totally unfamiliar sight for tennis fans, who watched a similar meltdown nine years earlier on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Playing the semi-finals against Kim Clijsters, Williams flew into a rage after a line judge called her for a foot-fault on a second serve, leaving her match point down to the Belgian.
Williams launched into an expletive-laced rant at the official. She waved her racket in the lineswoman’s direction and then shook a ball in her clenched fist as she threatened to shove it down her throat. It is time to maintain sorting spirit in the playing arena and not to lose temper at the slightest provocation. After all, winning and losing is the part and parcel of the game. By her silly actions, Serena was not only fined heavily but also lost her reputation as a senior pro playing in the circuit for so many years. It is notable that Williams could face further sanctions for her actions against Osaka.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)