On the night of September 8, Naomi Osaka, a twenty-year-old Haitian-Japanese tennis player, beat Serena Williams in the US Open Final. Osaka is the first Japanese-born female player to claim a Grand Slam title.
The match made history for another reason: During the match, Williams received three penalties from umpire Carlos Ramos, adding up to a fine of $17,000: $4,000 for a coaching penalty, $3,000 for breaking her racket, and $10,000 for “verbal abuse” towards Ramos. Williams protested the penalties, claiming that Ramos “stole a point from her” and that he was a “thief.”
As a result, the match caused an uproar in the tennis community. Former World Junior Number 2, Melanie Oudin tweeted, “Every coach coaches from the sidelines whether it’s in their own language or a few hand signals.” Many other top tennis players spoke out in solidarity with Williams.
On the other hand, many umpires were in agreement with Ramos, saying that, until Williams apologises for her vilifying actions towards him, they will boycott Williams’s games.
Amid that controversy, there were also allegations of sexism by umpires. A retired American tennis player, James Blake stood up for Williams, tweeting out, “I will admit, I have said worse and not gotten penalized. And I’ve also been given a ‘soft warning’ by the ump where they tell you to knock it off or I will have to give you a violation. He should have at least given her that courtesy.” Numerous male tennis players have commented that they’ve broken their rackets and fought with the umpires, but have never been hit with the penalties that Williams did.
Unfortunately, Osaka’s grand win was overshadowed by this controversy. When asked how she felt about competing and winning against her long-time idol, she replied, “I know that everybody was cheering for [Williams] and I’m sorry that it had to end like this. I want to say thank you for watching the match.” When the crowd booed at Osaka, Williams stood up for her, telling the crowd that Osaka “deserved to win”.
The outcome of this game wasn’t one that was anticipated by many, but the sportsmanship that the two athletes showed was beyond expectations.