Monday, September 10, 2018


by Dwight Casimere

 Associated Press/Julio Cortez
 CBS Studios Inc.

by Dwight Casimere

FLUSHING, NY-- In the aftermath of Saturday's Women's Final at the US Open, no one is talking about Naomi Osaka's historic title win as the first Japanese, man or woman, to ever win a Grand Slam tennis title. The firestorm over Serena Williams' eruption over chair umpire Carlos Ramos' accusation that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou was sending her hand signals from the stands. The U.S. Open's referee office announced it docked Williams $10,000 for "verbal abuse" of Chair Umpire Carlos Ramos, $4,000 for being warned for coaching and $3,000 for breaking her racket.

The incident is the second time this year US Open referees have faced sexism accusations. An official was slammed when Alize Cornet was hit with a code violation after she took off her shirt briefly during a match. US Open watchers on social media were quick to point out that male tennis players often take off their shirts to change during matches. The US Open later issued a statement saying it regretted the code violation.

At the Williams/Osaka trophy ceremony, stadium security rushed to secure the perimeter of the court in Arthur Ashe stadium as the crowd's chorus of boos, directed both at umpire Ramos and at champion Osaka, drowned out the presentation speeches. It wasn't until Serena herself called out for calm that the tsunami subsided. "She played beautifully," she said graciously of Osaka, and "we'll all get through this."  The winner, Naomi Osaka, lowered her tennis visor to hide her tears as Serena leaned over to give her a reassuring hug and whisper words of encouragement in her ear. When asked about her childhood dream of playing the world's number one tennis star, Osaka at first deflected the question, then responded to the crowd, "I wish it had't ended this way." It's the first time this reporter has seen someone look at a 3 point 8 million dollar prize check and their winning trophy as if they'd like it all to just go away.

"This is sort of one of the biggest things to ever happen to me," she later told a room full of reporters from across the globe in the interview room in the bowels of Arthur Ashe Stadium. 

Considerably more composed after a shower and a change of clothes and hairdo, she answered reporter's questions in a subdued, thoughtful and carefully measured tone. "I had my back turned and didn't hear anything (the verbal altercation between Serena and chair umpire Ramos), and didn't hear anything more until the penalty was announced."

Serena was first given a warning by the chair and was then fined a point.  After the tournament supervisors got dragged  into the fray, things went from bad to worse.  After smashing her racket to the ground and calling the umpire a "thief," she was fined a full game, which was credited to Osaka. This sealed Serena's fate. Williams lost the match and the title to Osaka 6-2 and 6-4. 

Chair umpire Ramos said he felt threatened by Serena's tirade, especially after she pointed her finger at him. Serena shot back that male players had done much worse and were never penalized in any way. She could be seen visibly fuming on the sidelines during the breaks, and as the veins in her neck throbbed in an  increasingly pronounced fashion as the match progressed, it was obvious that the dispute at overtaken her concentration. The mental and physical noise and building anger and resentment, both in her mind and in the stands, clouded her thoughts and ultimately cost her the match. 

A public firestorm has since ensued. Billy Jean King, for whom the US Open tennis center is named, weighed in with a full endorsement of Serena, decrying sexism in profesional tennis and echoing the deposed star's complaints. Even Serena's fellow male tennis stars chimed in on her behalf.

Some initial media commentators quickly blamed Serena for escalating the situation, but as the dust settles in the aftermath, the tide of opinion is turning in her favor.

WTA (World Tennis Association) President Steve Simon released a blistering statement criticizing the officiating of the match between Williams and Osaka."Yesterday brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches. The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards."

Williams also received the support of USTA president Katrina Adams, who is also African-American. In an interview with ESPN, Adams stated that there is a "double standard" of how certain umpires treat men and women players."We watch the guys do this all the time. They're badgering the umpires on the changeovers. Nothing happens. There's no equality. I know that what Serena did and her behavior was not welcome. But when you look at Carlos (the chair umpire) in this situation, its a judgement call to give that last penalty because she called him a thief. They've been called a lot more."

Osaka went on the Today Show Monday to try to clear the air. "I felt like I needed to apologize" (for beating Serena in the final). When pressed as to why she felt that way, she said t negative mood in the stadium had made her emotional."I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there (in the stands. Indeed, this reporter witnessed several attendees standing, shouting and pointing fingers at the newly crowned queen of the open and the chair umpire, using epithets that are best left unrepeated). "I know that the ending wasn't how people wanted it to be. I know that in my dreams I won a very tough, competitive match. I don't know. I felt very emotional.I felt like I had to apologize."

As if to add insult to injury, a political cartoonist for an Australian newspaper, Mark Knight,  tweeted a racist political cartoon published today by the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne, depicting Serena as a thick lipped Baby Huey, stomping on her racket with a pacifier on the stadium floor nearby. The ensuing twitter storm was deafening and continues as of this writing. 


With the controversy raging over the tennis association's handling of the Women's Final debacle and the shrill voices that continue over the international airwaves and online, the name of Naomi Osaka as the winner of the 2018 Women's US Open Title will be lost like so much 'dust in the wind,' as the old folk song says. Only the words first voiced by Serena Saturday night and then repeated by others, Sexism and Racism, will continue to echo and resonate in the days to come and in the annals of time.

No comments:

Post a Comment