John McEnroe: Serena is right, it wouldn’t happen to a man - but opinion is divided

By Jim Cook

Serena Williams’ behaviour in Saturday’s US Open final divided the tennis world after she called the chair umpire a “liar” and a “thief” and said he treated her differently than male players during her loss to Naomi Osaka.

Williams, who was seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title on Saturday, was handed a warning for a coaching violation before being deducted a point for smashing her racquet. She then had a heated argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, which cost her a game.

The six-time US Open champion, has since been fined $17,000 (€14,600) by the United States Tennis Association for the violations. In the wake of Osaka’s first Grand Slam triumph, there were messages of support for Williams as well as those condemning her actions and agreeing with the umpire’s calls.

Tennis great Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter: “When a woman is emotional, she’s “hysterical” and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s “outspoken” and there are no repercussions. Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard.”

Yet Australian Margaret Court, whose tally of Grand Slam singles titles is being chased by Williams, had little sympathy for the 36-year-old American.

“We always had to go by the rules,” Court, who dominated tennis during the 1960s and early 1970s, said according to a report in The Australian.

“It’s sad for the sport when a player tries to become bigger than the rules.

Because the young player outplayed her in the first set, I think the pressure got her more than anything.

John McEnroe, one of the game’s most tempestuous characters in his playing days, said the sport must find a way to allow players to express feelings and inject their personality into the game while adhering to the rules. Ramos should not have given Williams a violation for breaking her racquet and should have warned her early on about what would happen if she did not move on, he said.

“I’ve said far worse,” McEnroe, a seven-times Grand Slam singles winner, said on ESPN. “She’s right about the guys being held to a different standard, there’s no question.”

However, Richard Ings, a former professional chair umpire who also used to be the ATP Tour Executive Vice-President, Rules and Competition, felt it was Williams who needed to apologise.

Ings once issued a warning, point penalty and a game penalty against McEnroe at the 1987 U.S. Open for obscenities directed at the umpire.

“We should not let her record, as glowing as it is, overshadow the fact that on this day, in this match Williams was wrong,” Ings wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald. “The decisions made by Ramos had nothing to do with sexism or racism. They had everything to do with observing clear breaches of the grand slam code of conduct and then having the courage to call them without fear or favour.”

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