Martina Navratilova, an eighteen-time Grand Slam singles champion, slammed Serena Williams’ outburst during the U.S. Open final defeat, writing for the New York Times that she had behavior “that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
“[W]e cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with,” she said. She then noted: “There have been many times when I was playing that I wanted to break my racket into a thousand pieces. Then I thought about the kids watching. And I grudgingly held on to that racket.”
“Had I behaved like that on a tennis court, I would have expected to get everything that happened to Serena,” Navratilova also said, Fox News reported. “It should’ve ended … with the point warning, but Serena just couldn’t let it go.”
Navratilova said there is a double standard for women “when it comes to how bad behavior is punished—and not just in tennis.”
But she added, “I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of ‘If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.’ Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”
Details of the Match
Williams, in the final, was fined $10,000 for “verbal abuse” of chair umpire Carlos Ramos, another $4,000 for being warned for coaching in the match, and $3,000 for breaking her tennis racket. It comes out of her $1.85 million prize money, according to The Associated Press.
The Women’s Tennis Association and the U.S. Tennis Association both sent out statements supporting Williams during the loss.
WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement 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.”
USTA President Katrina Adams told ESPN that there are “double standards” for how some tennis umpires treat men and women players. “I think there has to be some consistency across the board. These are conversations that will be imposed in the next weeks,” she said.
“I know what Serena did and her behavior was not welcome. A line could have been drawn, but when you look at Carlos in this situation, it’s a judgment call to give that last penalty because she called him a thief. They’ve been called a lot more,” she said.
Williams called the official “a thief,” which drew the third violation against her for “verbal abuse,” and it cost her the game. That put Osaka ahead 5-3, AP reported.
“I have never cheated in my life!” Williams said to Ramos. “You owe me an apology.”
Under Article III, Section P of the Grand Slam Rule Book, “verbal abuse” is defined as “a statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive.” The section says a player is subject to a fine up to $20,000 for each violation, AP noted.
“You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live,” Williams shouted at Ramos, according to Fox News. “You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry…And you stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too!