Sexism runs rampant in the professional tennis world and what happened to legendary player Serena Williams on Sept. 8 is proof.
A showdown between Williams and Naomi Osaka in the U.S Open culminated with tears running down both women’s cheeks for very different reasons.
In the heat of the match, with both competitors fighting fiercely for a Grand Slam Finals victory, Williams was given code violations by umpire Carlos Ramos.
First, Ramos handed Williams a violation warning for coaching after he believed Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, gave her signals from the bleachers.
The next violation came when a clearly frustrated Williams smashed her racket on the court and she was handed a point penalty. The line of sexism was crossed when Ramos docked Williams an entire game for calling him a “thief.”
“You stole a point from me and you’re a thief,” Williams told Ramos.
The International Tennis Federation released a statement in support of Ramos’ decision to penalize Williams:
“Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis. Mr. Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the US Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offenses.”
After the match, Williams told reporters that Ramos’ calls were clearly rooted in sexism.
“I’m here fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality,” Williams said. “And for me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man, because he said thief. For me, it blew my mind.”
We should be talking about Osaka and her dream of beating Serena Williams in a Final coming true. Yet, we have to address the elephant in the room once again.
Williams was fined $17,000 by the U.S Open for the violation but her male counterparts have come to her defense.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I will admit I have said worse and not gotten penalized. And I’ve also been given a “soft warning” by the ump where they tell you knock it off or I will have to give you a violation. He should have at least given her that courtesy. Sad to mar a well played final that way. <a href=”https://t.co/xhBzFZX8Wq”>https://t.co/xhBzFZX8Wq</a></p>— James Blake (@JRBlake) <a href=”https://twitter.com/JRBlake/status/1038619979938189313?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty</p>— andyroddick (@andyroddick) <a href=”https://twitter.com/andyroddick/status/1038642213427789826?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
Just in the last few months, there have been other instances where female tennis players were treated differently than the males.
French tennis player Alize Cornet was handed a violation for briefly taking her shirt off on the court. She had been in the locker room to change during a 10-minute break and when she returned to the court she realized her shirt was on wrong and fixed it.
Tennis pro John Isner changed his shirt 11 times during his match against Juan Martin del Potro. Novak Djokovich, one of the game’s elite players, sat shirtless for several minutes while waiting for his opponent to return from a break. Neither player was penalized.
Earlier this year, in her first match since giving birth to her first baby, Williams wore a full body all-black catsuit at the French Open that helped her blood circulation after having a rough birth.
French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli made an announcement banning Williams’ catsuit and introduced a new dress code that banned players from wearing form fitting clothes.
Williams responded in perfect fashion by wearing a $500 Louis Vuitton tulle skirt (tutu) for her first match at the U.S Open.
Tennis has a long way to go in achieving equality for women at every level. The most polarizing and dominant player in tennis shouldn’t have to be in this fight but she is. Now that the GOAT has spoken up for women’s rights in a game ruled over by men, maybe the road will be easier for the next generation of women in sports. We can only hope.