Serena Williams’s claim that the code violations that sparked her meltdown in the US Open final were sexist have stirred debate, with WTA Tour CEO Steve Simon backing her on Sunday.
Williams was handed three code violations – and docked a point and then a game – in her 6-2, 6-4 loss to Naomi Osaka in the Flushing Meadows final.
Osaka out-played her to become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam, but her accomplishment was swamped in the controversy surrounding Williams.
Williams claimed that chair umpire Carlos Ramos meted out penalties for infractions that male players could have got away with, specifically a violation for verbal abuse after she called him a “thief” and a “liar” for warning her for coaching from her player’s box, then docking her a point for a racquet abuse violation.
Eventually she was docked a game – putting Osaka on the brink of victory.
Simon said the affair brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches.
“The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men v women, and is committed to working with the sport to ensure all players are treated the same,” he said.
Williams was most incensed by the first code violation she received – for coaching from her box.
It is not clear if she even saw the hand gestures by coach Patrick Mouratoglou sitting in her box, although he admitted in an interview with ESPN that he was trying to advise her – and said all coaches do it.
Simon said the sport should examine the rules on coaching, noting that the WTA already allows on-court coaching during regular tour events if a player requests it.
US great Billie Jean King tweeted: “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalised for it.
“When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions.
“Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
National Organisation of Women president Toni Van Pelt called for the US Tennis Association to sever ties with Ramos for “a blatantly racist and sexist move”.
The association said the decision to hand out the final code violation and game penalty was “not reviewable”.