Fans Are Torn Over Serena's Dramatic US Open Showing

Posted: Sep 10, 2018 9:25 AM
Fans Are Torn Over Serena's Dramatic US Open Showing

The U.S. Open semifinal showdown between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters in 2009 will forever be remembered by Williams's threat to "shove a tennis ball" down the line judge's throat. The tennis superstar lashed out at the judge after she had called Williams on a foot fault, meaning Williams stepped over the baseline when serving. The call cost Williams the point. It was the verbal tirade that followed that cost her the match.

History repeated itself this weekend. This time, it was a final, so the stakes were even higher. Williams was seeking her 24th grand slam title on Saturday on Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York. Her opponent, Naomi Osaka of Japan, 16 years her junior, was seeking her first.

They got through the first set drama free. About halfway through the second set, the umpire, Carlos Ramos, gave Williams a warning because he caught her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, coaching her during the match. She was upset, telling Ramos that she's "not a cheater," but he let her know it was just a warning. She thanked him and that was that. 

We thought. A few games later, when Williams lost a game she should have won, she smashed her racquet on the court. That cost her a penalty and a point. She was confused and frustrated by the punishment, walked back over to Ramos and proceeded to berate him, calling him a "thief" for "stealing" a point from her. Ramos issued another penalty against her for verbal abuse. That third violation cost her a whole game. She was incensed and demanded an apology. The same two referees who tried to mediate her 2009 outburst walked out on the court and tried to calm her down. Watch the exchange below.

During the dispute, Williams also accused the U.S. Open officials of sexism. Why, she wondered, were men allowed to get away with "much worse" behavior, but she was penalized for calling someone a "thief?" In addition to losing points, she was fined $17,000 for the violations.

She expanded on those arguments in her post-game press conference. 

Social media's reaction was as mixed as I've ever seen it. Half of viewers believe she was right to call out Ramos and say she hadn't seen her coach's hand signals. They also agree with her in arguing it was a double standard.

Others said her behavior and her excuses were ridiculous.

The Women's Tennis Association, and a few tennis legends, however, sided with Serena.

"The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men versus women," WTA chief executive Steve Simon said in a statement. "We do not believe that this was done last night."

As for Mouratoglou, he admitted to coaching during the match. He said all coaches do it. That gave the commentators pause, wondering if the rules should be discontinued. Former tennis champ Billie Jean King thinks it's time.

Thankfully, Williams did not use the awards ceremony to dwell on her ugly dispute with the umpire. After the match, she gave Osaka a big, warm embrace and congratulated her on her win. She put her arm around Osaka again to comfort her during the ceremony when the crowd kept booing. While everyone was expecting Serena to call out the umpire when she was handed the mic, instead she asked the crowd to stop booing and let Osaka have her moment.

Still, it's a shame that this match will be remembered for Williams's fight with the umpire, because Osaka played brilliantly and she made history. She is the first player - male or female - from Japan, to win a grand slam title. I'm sure we'll be seeing much more of her, sans the on court drama. 

Compared to Saturday's fireworks, Sunday's men's final was a snoozer. Serbia's Novak Djokovic defeated Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro for his third U.S. Open title 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.