The US Open finally ended when Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams faced each other in the Women’s Final on Saturday, but the sexism and misogyny embedded into tennis tournament is more prevalent than ever before. Before the match, this clash was being hailed as a black girl magic event, and rightly so. Both of the women had worked very hard to reach that stage. Naomi even said that the motivation behind wanting to win her semi-final match was so that she could have a chance to play against Serena Williams. But the match has resulted in a lot of drama and has highlighted the infamous double standards and blatant misogyny displayed by the US Open. Once again, a man felt it necessary to exert his authority because how dare a woman stand up to him, right?
During the match, Serena was slapped with a number of code violations from Umpire Carlos Ramos, who couldn’t take it when Serena stood up for herself. He accused her of communicating with her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who was in the stands.
“I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose,” Williams told Ramos. “I’m just letting you know.”
The second and third violations are what bother me the most. According to the Huffington Post, Serena had, out of frustration slammed her tennis racket and broke it, and that is what resulted in the second penalty, which caused her to lose a point. Breaking rackets is something that male players do all the time without having to face a single consequence simply because they are men. The third violation, which resulted in a game penalty, was when Serena confronted Ramos and called him a ‘thief’ from penalising her simply for breaking a racket. And Ramos, like any entitled sexist male, couldn’t bear it when a woman sharply confronted him and hurt his fragile ego.
“You owe me an apology,” she told the referee. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I’ve never cheated, and you owe me an apology. You will never do another one of my matches.”
Later, speaking to Women’s Tennis Association official Donna Kelso, Williams said the violations Ramos issued against her don’t happen to male players, “There’s a lot of men out there that have said a lot of things and because they’re a man, that doesn’t happen to them,” she told officials. And it is true, men say far harsher things to referees but they are never penalised for them. No one says a word against them because, hey, they’re men. Male players get to scream, yell, curse, break rackets, express their frustrations and get away with almost all of it. Serena breaks her racket once and gets penalised for it. Do you see what I’m talking about here?
Just last week, a male umpire personally coached Nick Kyrgios and got away with it. But now, Serena got penalised for a gesture her coach made, that she couldn’t even see. Men have gotten away with far worse. Case in point, John McEnroe, who would show poor sportsmanship in almost every game he played. He would throw multiple tantrums, throw rackets, curse at officials all the damn time, yet he was almost never penalised for it, in fact, that became his brand. He earned endorsement deals, roles in movies and tv shows for his absurd behaviour on the court. Serena lashes out once and was penalised. If that is not sexism, I don’t know what is. Andre Agassi called his umpire a ‘son of a bitch‘ in one of his games and was docked a point. Serena only called Ramos a thief. Andy Murray literally kicked a tennis ball at his empire’s face and didn’t face a single violation.
Let me tell you about instances that have happened with male players when Carlos Ramos was refereeing and not a single penalty was ever made, Novak Djokovic, this Friday at French Open got into an argument with Ramos. There were multiple violations but none of them resulted in a single docked point or game. He got multiple verbal warnings but none of them ever culminating to a point or game loss penalty. Andy Murray called Ramos’ umpiring ‘stupid’ when he received a violation, no game or point penalty followed. Rafael Nadal threatened Ramos after receiving a time violation and no penalty followed. Why is it that Serena only called him a thief and got a match as well as point penalty? I think you can do the math yourself.
I have a few more names for you that might ring a bell: Ilie Nastace, Jimmy Connors and Johnny Max. All of them have done similar things and gotten away with them simply because they are men. Also, note how not a single male tennis player has extended his support or stood up for Serena Williams. And not only did these violations ruin Serena’s game but Naomi Osaka also couldn’t even celebrate her victory due to the drama surrounding it all. She apologised for having won her first ever grand slam, something she should never have had to do in the first place. She was even booed at by the crowd, but Serena stood up for her. See the difference between how Serena and Ramos have handled this situation?
Throughout the year, many cases of sexism came to the forefront. For example, when Serena Williams wore an all black body suit which was specifically designed for her to prevent blood clots after she almost died while giving birth- the French Open banned her from wearing it ever again, even dubbing it as the ‘Black Panther’ bodysuit.
“I believe we have sometimes gone too far. Serena’s outfit this year, for example, would no longer be accepted. You have to respect the game and the place.” – Bernard Giudicelli, French Open President, speaking to Tennis Magazine.
Serena retaliated by wearing a tutu to her first US Open game, showing that she will never back down or let anyone dictate what she can and cannot wear on the tennis court. This isn’t the first time a woman was called out for wearing a body suit. In 1985, American tennis player Anne White wore a white catsuit in her match against another American Pam Shriver at Wimbledon. The rules state that a player should wear all white and conservative clothing at all times. Later on, Shriver complained that she got distracted because of the catsuit. The All-England Club then declared the outfit to be unfit for competition.
Another recent example is when a female tennis player from France, Alize Cornet, was penalised for taking off her shirt during the US Open to fix it when she realised it was on backwards, while on the court. The match was held on August 28 in Queens, New York, when the city was plagued with a heat wave with temperatures soaring up to 96 degrees, and the heat index made it feel like the temperature was over a 100 degrees. According to the rules set by the Women’s Tennis Association, a player can only remove shirts off the court, however, no such rules apply to their male counterparts, who took their shirts off while on the court, on the regular throughout the day.
There are countless more instances that I have not mentioned regarding the disgustingly obvious sexism, misogyny and double standards displayed by these tennis tournaments on the daily. Men get away with so much simply because of their gender, while women are called out for being ‘unreasonable’ and ‘throwing tantrums’. As Billie Jean King put it so perfectly, “When a woman gets emotional, she is branded as ‘hysterical’ but when a man does the same, he is called ‘outspoken’.” And therein lies the problem.
Featured Image via CBS Sports.