COMMENTARY: Williams out of bounds at U.S. Open final


Photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

Nicolo Manzo

My first commentary of the year addressed two head-scratching incidents at the U.S. Open. Despite some time passing, I found it only right to give my take on what turned out to be the most controversial event of the tournament: Serena Williams’ code violations and outburst at the Women’s Final of the U.S. Open.

This issue is very different from the other two I discussed. Those were obvious mistakes by the tournament and its umpires. This time, I think it’s fair to say that the player is more at fault.

There are two separate arguments here. One involves what happened on the court. The other involves the public’s reaction to it.

Let’s start with the action on the court. The bottom line is that while Williams vehemently denied cheating, her coach has been caught on tape coaching her from the coaching box. The coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, even admitted that he was coaching from the box. Whether Williams saw it or not or even wanted it to happen, that is still against the rules. The chair umpire Carlos Ramos was right to issue Williams a violation, her first of the match.

Later in the second set, Williams smashed her racket off the court, which earned her a second violation. This time, the umpire took a point from Williams.

I understand that the emotion of the game can get to a player at times, so the racket incident doesn’t irk me as much as it does some. It isn’t a classy move, but it is one that many players have done in their careers. However, Williams was already issued a warning following the coaching incident. This put Ramos in a tough spot.

Then everything got out of hand. After breaking the racket and receiving the point penalty, Williams ripped Ramos, calling him a “liar” and a “thief.” Williams even demanded an apology from Ramos and said that he wouldn’t be on the same court as her again.

The comments earned Williams yet another warranted violation. This time it was for verbal abuse, costing Williams a whole game.

Naomi Osaka would go on to defeat Williams 6-2, 6-4 to claim the championship.

During the post-match trophy presentation, the crowd booed. To Williams’ credit, she called for the boos to stop.

In what was the saddest moment of the night for me, Naomi Osaka, who had just won her first grand slam title in dominant fashion over one of the greatest tennis players in history, actually apologized to the crowd for winning.

As I said at the top, there are two issues here. As far as on the court, Williams was in the wrong — bottom line. She acted inappropriately in response to situations that she and her team created. Osaka was already one set up by the time of the first violation, so it also comes off as sour grapes on Williams’ part.

The public’s reaction is more complicated. I am sure that there are people who had racist and sexist motivations behind their reactions to the incident. That is extremely unfortunate. There is no place for racism or sexism in tennis, and I condemn it. Personally, I don’t view this outburst any differently than I do the outbursts of, say, John McEnroe. McEnroe has become the poster child of tennis outbursts. I don’t think anyone who is a real tennis fan stands by McEnroe’s repeated tirades against chair umpires.

Furthermore, Williams’ assertions that Ramos was sexist are inappropriate. Williams’ behavior was out of line especially for a grand slam final. Several male players such as McEnroe have been disqualified from tournaments altogether over their on-court conduct.

Serena Williams is an all-time great tennis player – one of the best all-time, male or female. This time her conduct didn’t live up to that lofty standard.

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Twitter: @NManzoTWW