Serena Williams’ Battle of the Sexes

The controversial U.S. Open tournament that saw Serena Williams endure numerous match penalties is the latest in a slew of sexist incidents in the world of tennis.

Williams was fined $17,000 following the Sept. 8 tournament, according to the U.S. Tennis Association -- $10,000 for “verbal abuse” of Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire; $4,000 for alleged mid-match coaching; and $3,000 for breaking her tennis racket.

The game was between Williams and 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, who has idolized Williams in the past. During the match, Ramos gave Williams a warning for mid-match coaching after her coach shot her a thumbs-up sign.

“I understand why you might have thought that,” Williams said to Ramos. “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.” Typically, mid-match coaching is prohibited, but rarely given official warnings from chair umpires.

Ramos docked Williams a point later when she broke her racket in frustration after missing a score. Williams became frustrated that he was insinuating she was a cheater and demanded an apology. “You owe me an apology, I have never cheated in my life,” Williams said. “I have a daughter and I stand [up] for what’s right for her. You owe me an apology… You stole a point from me, you’re a thief, too.”

After asking numerous times for an apology, Ramos docked another point for verbal abuse, which effectively cost her the match against Osaka. “This is unbelievable, every time I play here I have problems,” Williams said. The stadium booed at Ramos’ actions.

Photo courtesy of The Inquirer

Williams called the referees over, telling them that it was unfair for Ramos to take her points away. “This has happened to me too many times,” Williams told them, near tears. “You know how many men do things much worse? Because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?”

Osaka, having won the match, was in tears at the trophy ceremony, apologizing for what happened, despite having no part in it.

Once again, the stadium booed during the ceremony at the fact that Williams was in second place, but she urged them to stop. “I just want to tell you guys she played well and this is her first Grand Slam. I know you guys were rooting too, but let’s make this the best moment we can,” Williams said. “We’ll get through it, but let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due, and let’s not boo anymore. We’re gonna get through this. Congratulations, Naomi.”

At a news conference later, Williams commented on double standards in tennis. “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality… For me to say ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark.”

Photo courtesy of NBC Washington

Well-known tennis player Andy Roddick tweeted about the incident: “I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty.”

Billie Jean King, notorious tennis legend and activist, tweeted, as well, about the tournament: “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”

The International Tennis Federation issued a statement on the high-profile controversy, writing: “Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”

Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

This isn’t the first time female tennis players have dealt with double standards on the court. A few weeks ago, Alize Cornet, a French tennis player, left the court to change her top on a very hot day. When she came back to the court, she realized it was on wrong and briefly took it off in order to put it on correctly. She received a code violation for this, despite numerous male tennis players routinely being shirtless on the court.

The U.S. Open issued a statement saying it regretted the way they handled the situation and that all players are allowed to change their shirts in their chairs, while female players are permitted to change in “a more private location close to the court, when available.”

“It blows my mind,” Williams said.