Serena Williams and the 2018 U.S. Open: Sexism or an uninformed audience?

by Kincaid Norris | Contributing Writer

The U.S. Open has always been one of the most prestigious tennis tournaments in the world. The U.S. open along with the French Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon make up the four majors. This year Serena Williams (a twenty-three-time majors champion) incurred large in game penalties which some say caused her to lose in the U.S. Open finals. Serena’s reaction along with the types of penalties that were dolled out brings into question whether she was being targeted for these penalties because she is a woman or if they were all legally administered.

The first thing that needs to be questioned is the validity of the umpire who administered this controversial match. Carlos Ramos, the head chair umpire, has been an umpire on the pro circuit for twenty-seven years and has garnered worldwide respect. He is one of twenty-two umpires to obtain a gold badge status which is only awarded to the best umpires in the world. Consequently, he is viewed as a trustworthy umpire which is why he has umpired at each of the four majors.

On the pro tour penalties and rule infractions build upon one another and increase in severity as more penalties are incurred. The first infraction results in a warning from the chair, second infraction is a point penalty, and third is a game penalty.

Ramos issued Serena at the beginning of the second set as Naomi Osaka was beginning to pull away from Serena. As Serena was preparing to return serve Ramos administered a warning to Serena for illegal coaching from the stands which is disallowed in all majors.  The second came later in the set when Serena broke her racket on the ground and Ramos awarded Osaka a point for racket abuse on Serena’s part. The third and final penalty was assessed when Serena and Ramos began arguing about the previous penalties and Serena called him a thief and she was then penalized a game for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The issue is that Serena believes valid rules like the coaching rule and verbal abuse to an umpire are broken continuously by male tennis players but are never penalized. This issue of a double standard is what has enraged the masses, but past evidence shows Ramos has been strict even to male players. Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal and Englishman Andy Murray have both filed complaints that Ramos has targeted them with calls. Instead of levying claims of sexism upon Ramos and the Tennis world we should instead question the role of umpires in high stake matches or even consider rule changes to better the game. Tennis is far from a perfectly run sport, but sexism is not what altered the 2018 U.S. Open.