Sam Landstra–Staff Writer
A controversial ending to the Women’s US Open Final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka ignites a discussion of the double-standard placed on women in tennis.
Recently at the US Open Final, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka pulled off a stunning upset against Serena Williams, denying Williams her 24th Grand Slam title and becoming the first female Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam. However, Osaka’s victory was overshadowed by drama between Williams and the chair umpire.
The controversy in the match came from chair umpire Carlos Ramos issuing Williams three different code violations, resulting in Osaka being awarded a game point. Early in the match, Ramos penalized Williams for receiving coaching. Williams disagreed with Ramos’ ruling claiming that the thumbs-up her coach gave her was not coaching and that, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose”. Later in the match and continuing to be upset by Ramos’ ruling, Williams berated Ramos and called him a “thief”. Serena’s words prompted Ramos to give Williams her third code violation, resulting in a game point being awarded to Osaka, an unprecedented event in US Open history.
In the midst of the controversy, Williams claimed to the referees that her third penalty was not warranted and that men “do much worse than that. This is not fair”
Despite her loss to Osaka, many people have backed Williams in her claiming of a double standard in tennis. Legendary tennis player Billie Jean King tweeted following the match: “When a woman is emotional, she’s “hysterical” and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s “outspoken” & and there are no repercussions”. King herself has fought for equality in her tennis career as well.
Additionally, Grand Slam winner Andy Roddick also tweeted, “I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty” Longtime tennis fans will also remember tennis legend Andre Agassi’s famed outbursts at officials; and, although many times Agassi was indeed penalized, he also got away with things far worse than what Serena was penalized for.
Debates of sexism in tennis are not new to Serena either. Earlier this year, the French Open banned Serena Williams’ Nike catsuit which she wore in competition following the birth of her child. The catsuit allowed for easier blood flow as complications in Williams’ pregnancy resulted in poorer circulation. However, The Open cited that “one must respect game and place” and banned the suit.
Fifteen-year head coach for women’s tennis at Northwestern, Jeff Guthmiller, commented on the situation stating that although Serena is one of his favorite players, he didn’t excuse her reactions to the chair umpire’s calls. Guthmiller states, “He was there to do a job and she can be emotional to that but to berate him as he did, that’s not okay to do that.” However, upon being asked if he believed that there was a double-standard placed on women, Guthmiller agreed. Observing that in his experience in watching tennis, he has seen male tennis players “be much more aggressive in their language, in their approach to an official and not get a point or a game taken away”.
Ultimately, Guthmiller said that he felt for Osaka and how her first career Grand Slam victory was overshadowed by controversy. However, a powerful backing to Williams’ claim of a double-standard in tennis creates an increased attention to how women’s actions and emotions on the court are perceived.