Serena Williams was fined $17,000 for committing three code violations during her U.S. Open final loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday. The fines, announced on Sunday by the U.S. Tennis Assn., break down to $10,000 for verbal abuse of chair umpire Carlos Ramos, $4,000 for being warned for coaching and $3,000 for breaking her racket.
Williams, pursuing a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title, got the first code violation for illegally receiving coaching early in the second set of the match, which the powerful and poised Osaka won 6-2, 6-4. Williams told the umpire, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.” Her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, later said he was coaching but that all coaches do the same thing. Williams said she did not see him offer help.
Williams smashed her racket — an automatic point penalty — after Osaka broke her serve to take a 3-2 lead. Williams continued to berate Ramos, calling him a thief and a liar and saying, “You will never be on another court of mine as long as you live. You owe me an apology.” Ramos then sanctioned her for verbal abuse and penalized her a game, leaving the score at 5-3 in Osaka’s favor.
In a post-match news conference, Williams said she’d had no previous problems with Ramos. “He’s always been a great umpire,” she said. However, she accused him of sexism, contending that male players often make abusive remarks but are not penalized as harshly as she was. “For me, it blows my mind,” she said.
Katrina Adams, president of the U.S. Tennis Assn., said the U.S. Open’s officials department chose Ramos to work the match because of his good record. She also said no provision existed for him to explain his actions to the media because there was no precedent for needing comments from on-court officials. However, there have been many controversial incidents here — including Williams criticizing the officiating in 2004, 2009 and 2011 — as well as at other tournaments.
Adams supported Williams’ claims of sexist treatment. “We watch the guys do this all the time. They’re badgering the chair umpires all the time on the changeovers and nothing happens,” Adams, a former tour player, said in an interview on ESPN. “There’s no equality between what the men are doing to the chair umpires and what the women are doing. … Conversations will take place in the next week. 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.”
Adams also clarified an awkwardly worded comment she had made during the trophy presentation. Adams had said, “Perhaps it’s not the finish that we were looking for today,” but on Sunday she said she meant she had hoped for a clean and entertaining match, not for a particular outcome.
The Women’s Tennis Assn. also supported Williams. “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. He also said the WTA wants coaching to be allowed across the sport. It’s currently allowed only in women’s non-Grand Slam events.
Tennis icon Billie Jean King also supported Williams’ claim of gender bias. “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,” King said on Twitter. “Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
At this year’s U.S. Open, 26 fines were issued to men and 12 were issued to women, including the three against Williams.
Osaka, 20, became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. She cried during the trophy presentation as the pro-Wiliams crowd booed, but Williams urged fans to stop and protectively put her arm around Osaka.
On Sunday, Osaka tweeted pictures of herself and the winner’s trophy with the comment, “So there’s been a lot going on but I just want to say, I was grateful to have the opportunity to play on that stage yesterday. Thank you,” and added a heart. She also got a Twitter salute from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who thanked her “for your energy and excitement during this difficult time.” Japan was recently struck by an earthquake and a typhoon.