Dillon Giancola: Was Serena Williams wrongfully penalized?

dillon

For an hour last Saturday afternoon, Sept. 8, I was glued to my TV screen. Serena Williams was losing to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open Women’s Final, and was yelling at the umpire and losing her composure in response to the controversial penalties he handed her for receiving coaching and verbal abuse.

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I love watching tennis, men’s or women’s. Williams is the best women’s player of all time, but her matches are rarely close or exciting because of her dominance.

When Williams destroyed Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets in the semi-final, I had seen enough. She was still the best in the world, and was surely going to beat a talented but young Naomi Osaka.

Still, I switched over to the match just in case there was an upset. Indeed there was, as Osaka won in straight sets.

Immediately following the match, Williams called the umpire sexist for penalizing her, when men, she said, yell at the umpire and receive coaching all the time, but don’t receive point and game penalties as she did.

This is true. Male players aren’t penalized for these actions either. Still, it’s not the first time Williams has acted like this on the court.

This is a touchy subject. You’re not supposed to criticize Williams, or else you’re labelled sexist or against the values she represents, regardless if you happen to be cheering for another woman. I sometimes feel many of Williams' fans portray that she is the only female player who matters, or is worth cheering for. I should be able to cheer for Simona Halep and hope she wins major tournaments without people questioning why I'm not a Williams fan instead.

Her supporters argue that she should be able to act like this, to speak her mind on the court and let her emotions show, and not have to be reserved and even keeled, just because she’s a woman. That makes sesne and I absolutely agree. However, male players don’t run around screaming at the umpire in every match either, as some are suggesting. It happens sometimes, just as Williams sometimes gets mad at officials during a match.

But this is a big deal understandably because it’s one of the first times a game penalty was handed out, and it was to a woman player.

Carlos Ramos is a long-serving and respected official, who hasn’t been accused of being sexist before. Watching the video, it’s clear he was trying to remain calm, uncomfortable, and didn’t know what to do. In the end, he decided to stick up for himself, not unlike an NBA ref calling a technical foul or an MLB umpire tossing a player from a game. Perhaps he shouldn't have done what he did, but he was technically following the rules and didn't do anything explicitly sexist.

My suggestion is these penalties should be handed out more often, to both men and women. I’m naive enough to think it might actually happen, as there will be so much scrutiny on the next umpire in this position they’ll be conscious of doing the right thing, and avoiding backlash, obviously.

Either way, Williams brought this issue to the limelight, as she’s done countless times before, and I applaud that. This issue isn’t going anyway time soon, and will be talked about heavily during the next major tennis tournament.

However, there’s no need to pretend that her behaviour wasn’t deserving of what came next.
 

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