Serena Williams was docked a point, then a game for behavior that included shattering her tennis racket and berating chair umpire Carlos Ramos during her 6-2, 6-4 loss to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open final on Saturday.
After the match, Williams accused Ramos of sexism, suggesting that male players get away with abusive remarks without such severe penalties. In the 24 or so hours that followed, the U.S. Tennis Assn., the Women’s Tennis Assn. and legendary player Billie Jean King have all backed Williams in this regard.
But on Monday, two of the biggest names in women’s tennis — 18-time Grand Slam winner Martina Navratilova and veteran broadcaster Mary Carillo — were much more critical of Williams.
In a New York Times opinion piece, Navratilova agreed that male players get more favorable treatment than their female counterparts when it comes to bad behavior on the court. But, she said, Williams should not have been acting that way in the first place.
“It’s difficult to know, and debatable, whether Ms. Williams could have gotten away with calling the umpire a thief if she were a male player. But to focus on that, I think, is missing the point,” Navratilova wrote. “If, in fact, the guys are treated with a different measuring stick for the same transgressions, this needs to be thoroughly examined and must be fixed. But we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
She added: “We do need to take a hard look at our sport, without any rose-colored glasses, and root out any inconsistencies and prejudices that might be there. Tennis is a very democratic sport, and we need to make sure it stays that way.
“But it is also on individual players to conduct themselves with respect for the sport we love so dearly.”
During an appearance MSNBC, Carillo also said the focus should be on Williams’ behavior, stating that the 23-time Grand Slam champion was acting like a “bully.”
“Serena is a magnificent champion, she is a great athlete,” Carillo said, “but people who are pointing the finger at the dude in the chair, to my mind, are really getting this wrong.”