The 2018 U.S. Open Women’s final was quite the eventful Saturday for not only Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams but for the whole tennis world.
Osaka was the first Japanese woman to win a Grand Slam but because of all that happened with Serena during the match, she lost her spotlight. Everyone knows that if Naomi won, it’s because she worked really hard and deserved to be there on that court fighting for the title. Regardless if Williams lost her temper or not, Osaka still has her merit.
But the spotlight that Williams was under after that match had its reasons, and not only because she “lost it.” She made some arguments that got the whole tennis community talking, and the situation made people discuss the different treatment between women’s and men’s matches.
In case you weren’t watching the match and are not up to date with what actually happened, here’s a brief summary:
When Williams was down one set and losing the second game of the second set, she was charged with a coaching violation. Apart from college tennis, coaching during a tennis match is forbidden and could result in serious punishments. Williams, for example, got a warning and a $4,000 fine.
After that, during a side change, Williams talked to the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, making sure he knew she wasn’t a cheater.
A few games later, Williams lost a game point and smashed her racket on the ground, breaking it. This made her automatically lose a point on the next game and cost her another $3,000. When the next game was started Williams was confused as to why Osaka had a point before the game even started and went over to the umpire’s chair to discuss it with him. She said that breaking a racket was worth only a warning, and the umpire reminded her of the coaching warning and that after a warning, on your second offense, you have a point penalty. That’s when Serena lost her temper and started to argue with the umpire.
“I have never cheated in my life!” Williams told Ramos. “You owe me an apology.”
She kept demanding that he remove the coach’s warning and to apologize, which he didn’t do.
Later on the match, on another side change, Williams started to argue with the umpire again saying that he would never be working on her court again and that he was attacking her character, while still demanding an apology. After telling him not to talk to her again, she accused him of stealing a point from her and proceeded to call him a thief.
That was the last penalty she received that day, costing her a whole game and $10,000 for verbal abuse.
Williams was ready to start the next game when she heard the umpire announcing the penalty. She strongly disagreed, and as both players approached the umpire’s chair to figure out what was happening, Williams scoffed at the umpire and demanded to talk to the referee – who is the official responsible for assuring that the competition is fair and played under the ITF Rules of Tennis.
While in tears, Williams kept telling the referees that the penalties weren’t fair, that she would never cheat and that they knew her character.
But she did call him a thief, and the referee said that she committed a code violation because of that. That’s when she pointed out the sexist standards.
“Do you know how many other men do things that are much worse?” Williams pointed out while the referee still stood his ground on the violation. “This is not fair. There’s a lot of men right here who have done a lot of things, but because they are men this doesn’t happen to them.”
She kept pointing out the injustice and saying that it was not fair.
“Because I’m a woman you’re going to take this away from me?” Williams said.
“I get the rules, I’m just saying this is not right,” she said.
Williams also said that it happens every time she plays there, and she didn’t like how unfair it was to her.
She continued to play with the game penalty, serving to keep herself on the match for the championship, and won the game with the whole crowd cheering for her, all the while continuing to emphasize the perceived unfairness of the code violations.
After a disputed game, Osaka won the match with a wide serve that Williams didn’t manage to return.
After all, was Williams being coached? Mouratoglou, her coach, confessed that he was indeed giving her hand signals, but she probably didn’t see it.
“Well, I mean, I’m honest, I was coaching,” Patrick Mouratoglou said. “I mean, I don’t think she looked at me, so that’s why she didn’t even think I was.”
By Williams’ reaction, it is clear that she felt insulted when she was charged with coaching violation. As one of the ESPN commentators said, Williams seemed more upset with the insinuation that she was cheating, than anything else.
When you’re playing a tennis match, anything can change your mindset, make you lose your mind and make you lose the match. Imagine how much worse it must be when you’re playing for a Grand Slam title, with a $3.8 million prize, while people all around the world watch you play.
Cover photo courtesy of CNN International.