A longtime role model for tennis players of all ages, Serena Williams’ recent quasi-meltdown at the 2018 US Open women’s final in New York has set a poor example for professional behavior and sportsmanship.
Although certainly not her first breach of on-court decorum, Serena’s outburst is notable for the accusations she hurled at the line judge, Carlos Ramos. Initially troubled by a penalty incurred after her coach was caught providing instructions during a point, Williams became increasingly incensed after successive point penalties for additional infractions, including one for racket abuse. Rather than calmly discussing said penalties with decorum, Williams accused Ramos of sexism and inequity, claiming an implicit bias in judging women’s matches.
“I’m gonna say that neither of them were in the right here,” said senior Connor Kelly. “It shouldn’t be this heated over something so unimportant, if you think about it.”
Public sentiment after the conclusion of the match was largely split, with many accusing Ramos, and tennis umpires as a whole, of maintaining a greater level of lenience with male athletes as compared to their female counterparts. However, a New York Times study published on September 14th found that male tennis players were penalized for rule violations at Grand Slam Tournaments at a rate of almost three times that of female players.
“I think the main problem is with the assumption that players can get away with acting like this, male or female,” said JV Boys and Girls Tennis coach David Burns. “It’s just a general problem in the sport, and needs to be addressed.”
Undoubtedly, the debate over penalties in tennis will continue, but for the moment, the manufactured outrage over Serena Williams’ treatment boggles the mind. In a sport defined by clear rules, and where the onus to follow said rules is solely on the individual playing, it seems strange to shift the blame for breaking the rules on someone else.