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Tennis umpires upset and feeling ‘abandoned’ after Serena Williams incident at the U.S. Open

Tennis officials are upset at the perceived lack of support they’ve received from the sport’s governing bodies in the wake of a controversy over an umpire’s penalties against Serena Williams at the U.S. Open.

Some are reportedly considering refusing to officiate Williams’ matches. Another report says the controversy has sparked talk of umpires unionizing.

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Playing in the final Saturday against Naomi Osaka, Williams was docked a point, then a game for behavior that included destroying her tennis racket and berating chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

After the match, which she lost 6-2, 6-4, Williams accused Ramos of sexism, stating that the behavior she displayed on court is more tolerated from male players. She quickly received the support of the Women’s Tennis Assn. and U.S. Tennis Assn.

“The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs. women and is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same. We do not believe that this was done [Saturday] night,” CEO Steve Simon said in a statement.

Katrina Adams, president of the U.S. Tennis Assn., said on ESPN: “I know what Serena did and her behavior was not welcome but when you look at Carlos or the umpires [in general], they’ve been called a lot worse.”

On Sunday, Williams fined $17,000 for three code violations during her match, including $10,000 for verbal abuse.

The next day — two days after the incidents at the U.S. Open — the International Tennis Federation weighed in on the matter, stating, “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 offences.”

Serena Williams argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during the women's final at the U.S. Open on Saturday.
Serena Williams argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during the women's final at the U.S. Open on Saturday. (Jaime Lawson / Getty Images)

For some tennis officials, that support from just one of tennis’ governing bodies was too little and too late.

"The umpiring fraternity is thoroughly disturbed at being abandoned by the WTA," Richard Ings, a retired elite Gold Badge umpire told ESPN on Tuesday. "They are all fearful that they could be the next Ramos. They feel that no one has their back when they have to make unpopular calls."

The Times of London on Tuesday cited an unnamed source who said some officials are contemplating a boycott of Williams’ future matches. The Guardian reported in a story published Wednesday that some top umpires are considering the formation of a union after Ramos was “hung out to dry” by tennis authorities.

“There is a lot of unhappiness in the umpiring community because no one is standing up for officials,” a senior figure told the Guardian. “Umpires keep asking: ‘What if it was me in that chair on Saturday?’ There is a widespread feeling that Carlos was hung out to dry for nearly 48 hours and that no one is standing up for officials.”

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