Fighting for all women? Serena Williams’ US Open outburst wasn’t a show of strength


Anger management is needed here.

It often is, but thankfully we’re taking a break from the various vendettas I am apparently conducting against your favourite football clubs this week, to focus debate-style on Serena Williams’ self-regarding meltdown/righteous blow for the rights of all women bar her opponent and anyone that dares to challenge her, at this year’s US Open. You can read my take on it here – but, before we start, a blast of proper New York feminist attitude.

Says a man! Men need to support Serena in this. She did nothing more than many male athletes have done, with nothing more than an admonishment. It’s disgusting.

I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t realise that this penis precluded me from commenting on an elite figure in tennis challenging the authority of an umpire. And men need to support Serena in what? Her right to act as a spoiled child when legitimately confronted by authority. Don’t think we do. There are worthier causes.

Go back and look at all the temper tantrums that men have displayed on the court and they get no penalties. Especially a whole game. It’s a double standard when it comes to bad behaviour. You are all missing the point.

Actually, male tennis players are frequently punished for poor behaviour. The majority of punishments, rightly, go to males. Maybe they don’t lose games, but then maybe the verbal challenges to umpires were not repeated and carried on across the best part of a set, and did not include words as significant as ‘thief’ or ‘liar’. Equivalency is the most dismal argument because it is unachievable unless the same umpire takes charge of every match. Famously, Wayne Rooney repeatedly swore at the referee Graham Poll during a football match, and escaped punishment; the next week an official may be offended by the same words and issue a red or yellow card. It depends on the interpretation or threshold of the official. Carlos Ramos clearly felt a line had been crossed by Williams and took the action he believed appropriate. That is no double standard: he is entirely within his rights.

She needs to stop calling herself a ‘strong woman’. Real strong women do not act like that. Why do some people confuse being a loud-mouth bully with strength? Becoming over-emotional isn’t strong; it’s the exact opposite.

I think what Williams has achieved in her sport, and life, makes her a strong woman. I entirely agree, though, that what was witnessed at Flushing Meadows on Saturday was not strength but an increasingly poor reaction to the prospect of defeat.

Serena was bested on ‘her court’. I agree that she was being petulant and acting childishly entitled. The umpire called it correctly and her coach copped to it. He’s got more integrity than Serena does, obviously. Sore loser, poor sportsmanship and an arrogance that reaches new heights.

Well, yes and no. Patrick Mouratoglou admitted coaching, but by then it was clear he had been captured giving signals on film, so there was no point denying it. His justification – that every coach does it – is no excuse and later blaming umpire Ramos for wanting to get involved was simply risible. It wasn’t quite the ethical confession you assume.

Champions do not bow before incompetence.

The umpire’s call was correct every time; Williams lost her rag while being beaten in a final by a superior opponent. I defer to no-one in my admiration for Williams in most circumstances but, on this occasion, the official wasn’t incompetent. Williams, however, was certainly the second best tennis player out there.

When you’re around long enough the real you shows up.

I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t see this as the real Serena any more than the thousands of times when she has been utterly inspirational, impeccable in manner and action and brilliant at her sport.

If Serena was correctly punished for the accumulation of violations and her argument is that the same sanctions are not applied to some male players in the same circumstances, then surely the problem is umpiring inconsistency rather than sexism?

Well, her argument will be that it is umpiring inconsistency as a result of sexism. And I agree, if this can be proven by more than the bandying around of opinions, then it is a problem. But it is a problem, not the problem – which is player indiscipline. Anyway, all of it is easily remedied by a short and sharp crackdown on player tantrums with very firm and clear guidelines, and strong punishments quickly applied. Tennis has turned a blind eye and failed to support umpires for too long.

Having watched the match on TV I would say, yes, the official too was guilty. According to comments made by the TV commentators, the coaches have been doing this for years. Maybe the rules should be changed. Other sports have coaches giving hand signals, maybe it’s time for tennis to move forward and allow it.

Coaching isn’t allowed because tennis is supposed to be an individual sport and once the player – or players in doubles – are out in the arena, they are supposed to work out any technical or tactical issues alone. You may find this draconian, but them’s the rules. Equally, it is made very plain that in the event of a coaching violation, it is the player who is held responsible for the behaviour of the team and receives the punishment. Now, it could be argued that this should be refined so that instead of penalising the player, the coach is required to vacate the arena – but that does rather absolve the key figure from responsibility. Might it be worth a coach taking a chance on giving illegal instruction if the worst that can happen is he watches the rest of the match on TV. Punishments should be deterrents, after all.

Had Serena simply disagreed with Ramos about the illegal coaching call, then hunkered down to play her best game, no matter win or lose there would be no controversy. But she was selfish, unprofessional, rude and obnoxious, and now some sportswriters and others are doing contortions and waving the flag of feminism to justify her actions.

Yes the idea the umpire over-reacted is really quite precious. It was Williams who over-reacted. Had she not, the issue would have stopped at a single point penalty – the same punishment Ramos gave Rafael Nadal for taking too long between serves at the French Open. But, of course, the men never get punished, remember?

John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and countless others had far more frequent, and far less justified confrontations with umpires. No one blinked and they tolerated it, as they do all male prima donna athletes. Let a woman take a hard, loud stand though, and everyone freaks out.

Absolute rubbish. Some examples? Far from tolerating McEnroe, he was disqualified from the 1990 Australian Open for persistent (three) code violations. In 1980, he was booed onto Centre Court for the Wimbledon final, because the crowd were so disgusted by his behaviour against Connors in the semi-final. The following year he won Wimbledon but was not awarded the traditional honorary membership of the All-England club having already been fined for his behaviour earlier in the tournament. In 1984, he was suspended for three weeks having exceeded a total ceiling for fines imposed on him for repeated bad behaviour. It’s a convenient self-justification for Williams and her enablers that men do worse and always get away with it. Unfortunately, it’s not true. Still, for balance, all the way from Sierra Leone, here’s the Black Woman Experience.

When you have your second code violation and you scream at the chair judge and call him names you’re going to pay. She lost the first set 6-2. The drama happened in the second set. She was getting trampled on and did it on purpose. Her excuses are false and weak.

Agreed. As with most sports people this stuff never seems to happen when they’re on top.

Women’s Tennis Association: ‘Serena at all times plays with class.’ Huh?

The WTA statement, of which this is just a soundbite, was an utter disgrace. A scared organisation trying to protect its biggest asset, now it is plain Maria Sharapova may not for some reason be the force she was. It would be wonderful if the umpires refused to have anything further to do with the WTA, until it apologises to Ramos and umpires generally for the insinuation they treat female players differently.

Everything that Serena’s being accused of is just a smokescreen for the things people really hate her for but know they can’t say.

Ah, you wait all day for an English poster and when one finally comes along, he’s an idiot. So a black person can’t simply be wrong, without it being a racist conspiracy? You might not be racist, but you’re not very smart.

Women’s tennis is in a nose dive and here is one clear reason. You are caught cheating, you throw a fit, insult the judge and take the spotlight from the winner. Pathetic. People respect greatness with humility.

Look, it must be very hard for Serena Williams to remain humble. Can you imagine how many times each day she gets told how wonderful, talented and inspirational she is? But as an athlete she should know that when she steps on court there is a higher power: the umpire. Without the umpires and referees, there is no game, and that is to be respected. So I get that Serena might have a hot tip for herself – but not that she chose to ignore a basic tenet of professional sport.

Bet you they have a female umpire at any other Grand Slam event in which Serena makes the final.

Makes no difference. Have you forgotten her horrible clash with Eva Asderaki at the US Open in 2011?

The commentators should apologise because during the match they mentioned the obvious coaching by Mouratoglou as ESPN replayed it and commented further on how Serena responded to that coaching by coming into the net – something she had not been doing until that point in the match. She also won each of those points. Then the same commentators were crying foul and supporting the various defences offered by Serena at the end.

I didn’t see the American broadcast obviously, but if what you say is true then it most certainly makes the initial punishment justified. You’re not cynical – just a little more observant than some on here. This next contributor, for instance.

Hey, Martin look up her history with the US Open – not too stellar on their part and actually very biased and very sexist. Maybe do your homework. Serena had every right to stand up for herself. Yes, her coach may have been coaching. Firstly, they all do it which doesn’t make it right but, if you’re going to call foul on one, call foul on all – Naomi Osaka’s coach was doing same. The difference being, Serena wasn’t even looking at her coach. The umpire did rob her and the spectators of another match. Your comments and judgement only lends to the sexism – men are allowed emotions, women not. What an insult to journalism you are. You owe Serena an apology as well.

Look, I did my best to tidy up this semi-literate gibberish and make it comprehensible but some of the sentences were frankly irretrievable. Capitals in the middle of clauses, dots and commas everywhere, frequent outbursts of triple exclamation marks. It was as if it had been written in morse code. I think Bojack Horseman said it best, when he said:

And, to make it worse, just about every point you raised was covered in my initial piece. Williams does have history at the US Open and it isn’t stellar – but on her part, not theirs. And who was being sexist – the female umpire she turned on in 2011 or the female line judged she threatened there in 2009? She called umpire Asderaki ‘unattractive inside’ and said she shouldn’t even be allowed to look at her if they passed in a hallway. Great day for feminism that. Maybe it’s you who need to do some homework; or think a little before squeezing out another post. Equivalency does not matter and, as I explained in the piece, nor does whether Williams saw the instruction. As stated by the previous poster, the commentary teams thought she did, and successfully responded to the coaching, too – but even if you are correct, it’s the thought that counts. A failed bank robbery is still a crime; an attempted murder is treated little differently to a successful one. As for women not being allowed emotions, that’s all the aftermath has been. Desperate emoting – from male and female enablers – in search of some bogus justification. I think Bojack Horseman said it best when he said:

Rules exist, but the foundation of inequality is when rules are applied inconsistently. The fact is a male player of Serena’s calibre would not be docked a game in a Grand Slam final for using the word thief. If that’s Ramos’ idea of verbal abuse, he needs to retire from the umpiring chair and go coach little league. Also, if coaching isn’t allowed, it shouldn’t be allowed for anyone – including the judge who got down from the chair last week to coach a player. What was his penalty again? Double standard much?

I’m still waiting for one person to find the exact precedent in which no action was taken when a male player called an umpire a thief. Every defender of Williams cites this event to prop up specious claims of sexism, but none have yet unearthed it either with footage or documentation. So, five days on, can we assume it has never happened? That no umpire has blithely waved away this precise term, said as part of a sustained challenge to his (or her) authority. So it isn’t fact – it’s just your opinion, and as it comes backed up by a fictitious piece of evidence, isn’t worth very much at all. As for the idea that Ramos has to put up with the public contempt of the famous and entitled as part of his job, I’d say not for a minute he does. A lot of people wouldn’t take that crap for any money, so he certainly shouldn’t have to take it for the comparative pittance match officials are paid. No doubt there are some pretty big mouths at little league, too – maybe you’re one of them, Anna – but always remember that from the kids ball park to Flushing Meadows, no ump, no game. And show some damn respect.

During the US Open almost every other commercial on TV showed Serena in some capacity. Her PR team in co-ordination with the US Open was building her up for a huge win. The live act did not follow the script. Sometimes when people are built up so tall they cannot process events as they happen.

I think she knew exactly what was happening. She just didn’t like it. Not one bit.

She can very well argue her points outside of the court. Once you step onto the court, the rules apply both sides of the net. Comparisons to anyone outside this particular match is irrelevant. Just an entitled brat.

I’m stopping short on entitled brat, but the rest I completely agree with.

It was about entitlement. Don’t you know who I am?

It’s funny, but I never really believe stories in which a famous person is quoted as saying ‘do you know who I am?’ I just cannot bring myself to think that anyone would be so self-regarding and stupid. Don’t they know that it is the only thing any person present will remember about them, and that the story will be recounted thousands of times? And who thinks ‘do you know who I am?’ could win any dispute, when it can be shot down with a one-word answer that barely requires a second of thought. And then I read a piece in a not-quite freesheet called The I by a columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. This is how it began:

‘On the tube on Monday afternoon, I sat next to a couple. Both had lean bodies, blue eyes and nice tans. They were discussing Serena Williams and that row during the US Open final. The woman asked in a loud, plummy voice, “Who does she think she is?” So I butted in, informed her that she was one of the greatest, most talented tennis players in the world, winner of 39 grand slam titles, oh and a mum of a one-year-old. They looked alarmed, said nothing and moved away. OK, that was bad form. They were having a private conversation. But I felt bile rising and had to speak. A black, female tennis player who shatters every barrier, is still a nobody to actual nobodies.’

And why did Alibhai-Brown feel entitled to intrude on a private conversation, having eavesdropped. Well, don’t you know who she is? She’s an author, a newspaper columnist, Oxford educated, a master of philosophy. How dare these – what did she call them – ‘nobodies’ hold a view that was different to hers? Leaving aside the underlying racial or social stereotyping – ‘plummy voice’, ‘tanned’ ‘blue eyes’ – I think we know where she’s going with that caricature but we’ll give the benefit of the doubt, how does she know they were nobodies? She could have been snooping on the finest legal minds in their chambers, two brain surgeons on their way to theatre, titans of trade and industry. Just because the woman was thin and posh, used public transport, and thinks Serena Williams acted with an unpleasant sense of entitlement, she’s nobody? She might be a respected tennis umpire, who understands only too well the demands of the job. She might be a youth tennis coach worried about a rise in brattish, spoiled behavioiur. And if these are the nobodies, who is somebody then? Well, Williams obviously. She’s got 39 Grand Slam titles. But the writer, too. She’s somebody, and ‘has to speak’ because unlike these anonymous no-marks she alights at her stop and then gets to pontificate at length about their exchange in a newspaper it is proving increasingly hard to almost-give away. And she doesn’t see Williams’ sense of entitlement at all. But then she wouldn’t, would she? And she won’t be asking why, either, you can bet on that. Here’s some appropriately themed music; or a song about two pet tortoises, take your pick.

Typical reaction by a member of the left. Never taking personal responsibility is their hallmark.

Have you ever heard of something called Brexit? We gave the responsibility of delivering it to those who campaigned for it – mostly those on the right wing of the Conservative Party. Several years later they have almost all resigned and are back to causing trouble because standing outside the tent p***ing in, is an awful lot easier than dealing with the practical realities of the process they brought about. So I don’t see Serena’s behaviour as party political.

When multiple Chelsea players called a referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, a ‘thief in the night’ or just ‘a thief’ after he put on the most biased and perhaps poorest display ever seen in the Champions League in a match against Barcelona, they received bans from UEFA, who stood by their official. Will the tennis authorities do the same and ban Serena or is it simply just a slap on the wrist fine that amounts to what she makes in about 15 minutes? Careful the precedent you set.

Always a well considered contribution from Barry, a man who has bothered to find a like for like comparison, albeit from another sport. And he’s right. Jose Bosingwa specifically used the word thief to describe Ovrebo’s performance – the worst I have seen, although I favour incompetence, rather than conspiracy – and was banned for four matches. Didier Drogba received six matches because he also personally confronted the official. Williams did both but I think we all know the answer to your question about paltry fines compared to significant action. I am greatly heartened to hear that the lack of support Ramos has received may lead to umpires becoming unionised. If the authorities won’t protect them, they need to look after themselves.

Serena, please don’t fight for women’s equality on my behalf. I have a brain and a tongue in my head and I’m able to stand up for myself.

I know, I love the idea that she is out there fighting for all women. She’s not even bothered about the one on the opposite side of the net.

Another man writing about women being hysterical. If you are not a cheater then being called a cheater is the highest insult and very upsetting. I would have been really mad too.

Except her coach admitted trying to cheat and, according to the rulebook, the player takes responsibility for the coach. Apart from this itsy-bitsy flaw, a well thought out argument. And if you won’t take that from a man, I’ve just asked my wife and she thinks you’re talking cobblers, too.

Very well, she is not special and should take her punishment. Good. But now let’s see all umpires enforce the no coaching rule during all matches. Anyone who is a tennis fan knows this goes on all the time. There should be no exceptions from now, men or women.

Sure, but you can only censure what you can spot. Some coaches might be better at hiding their signals than others. This is why it is so ridiculous to claim that Osaka was being coached, too. That may be the case, but if the umpire cannot spot it, what to do? The only solution would be to have rules officials permanently monitor the players’ box – and could all tournaments afford that for all matches? I doubt the WTA could.

I don’t care if Serena Williams was right or not, what I care about is you making a comment that ‘babies are not hard to come by’. That is absolutely outrageous. Do you know how many women including myself are struggling every single day to have a baby?

No, I don’t. How could I? I do realise that not every woman is able to conceive and I feel for those who wish to, but cannot. My point was that when there are 7.442 billion people in the world, and 50 per cent of them are female to use ‘I have a daughter’ as some form of trump card is ludicrous.

Screaming, grunting and glaring to unnerve her opponent, fake injuries requiring the trainer on court so that she can get her act together and, at the same time, disrupt her opponent’s concentration – only to be running around with not a thing wrong minutes later. She may not call it cheating, but I do.

Annie, I think all elite players use a degree of gamesmanship, including Williams, and while it can seem less than sporting, how an opponent handles it is part of the match. This was different because it challenged the very fabric that allows the sport to be played: the authority of the umpire.

I recall watching Serena at Wimbledon a couple of years back. She was struggling against a Russian player in the first set and started demanding the roof be closed. A couple of raindrops had apparently made the surface unsafe and she threatened to sue if she was injured. The incident unnerved her opponent and after the roof closure, she went from matching Serena game for game to only winning one or two more in the whole match. This was before the baby and just goes to show that Serena can’t deal with pressure.

I think Serena’s record as arguably the greatest player of all time, male or female, suggests she can handle pressure. As for the match you saw, it was a fourth-round pairing in 2016, and did not go down quite as you recall. Yes the first set was tied 5-5 when Serena complained, but light drizzle was falling, not a few spots, and her opponent, Svetlana Kuznetsova, also backed roof closure. Also, she didn’t win any games at all after that: Serena won eight straight with the roof closed. Final score 7-5, 6-0, Williams. She really is quite stunning when playing at her best.

I always preferred her sister Venus, and it seems she sometimes loses on purpose against her just to keep Serena happy.

I have never believed that the sisters fix the matches. Serena has won 18 of their 30 meetings, including 11 of 16 in Grand Slams, and seven of nine in Grand Slam finals. Venus would have to be an extraordinarily generous individual to simply allow that to happen. In fact, she’d have to be a mug. There is a simpler explanation: Serena is better at tennis.

A woman who continuously gets drug tested, body shamed, booed, ridiculed and when she says ‘thief’ is penalised and fined. She’s a strong woman. From all the dads out here with daughters, we salute your fight. A true inspiration to all struggling women who are being discriminated against daily.

Oh, what rot. Williams’ life is one continual round of praise, praise, praise. I’ve just revisited the column I wrote about her in January 2017 after she won the Australian Open. You can read it here. That is my go-to position on Williams and still is. Placed in the same bracket as Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Pele – the greatest of all time. Only idiots make crude comments about her body shape – and who listens to idiots? The reason she was drug tested more regularly this summer is because she was returning from a lengthy absence, and testers are always more vigilant around that. When Roger Federer came back after being out injured, he said he was tested seven times in a month; Williams was tested five. She is at the pinnacle of her sport, too, so that also attracts attention. Nothing here is unusual or unfair. And yes, Williams is a strong woman – it’s not a particularly strong stance, however, to say this excuses Saturday’s events. There’s your role model, kids – screaming at the umpire because a call didn’t go her way. Very strong. May I recommend ‘Horses’ by Patti Smith instead?

Funny how they’ve never in the history of the sport taken a game off a man or a woman in a Grand Slam final for that same offence – and that’s a fact. So all your arguments are invalid. She was robbed blatantly and its obvious why. The bandwagon of haters are trying their best to focus on the outburst to cover up what they do to certain athletes that are on the brink of legendary status. And I bet that girl never even reaches a final again never mind wins one.

How much? Go on, money where your mouth is. Osaka is 20 and she had already taken the first set 6-2 before the tantrums started, from the greatest player of all time, a hugely intimidating figure, in front of a partisan crowd rooting for her opponent. Serena broke her, and was broken straight back. So Osaka looks a prospect to me. As for your first statement, yes, it’s almost as if different umpires treat different violations and different circumstances differently. And your claim that your solitary fact makes all arguments invalid is straight from the playground. You think you can have your little say and then everyone has to shut up? I get where Serena’s sense of entitlement comes from, but yours is a mystery. I can’t recall such an incendiary outburst in a final, which might explain why events on Saturday took a unique path.

Love it when a man tells women what we’re allowed to think is sexism.

No, Kat, you’re allowed to think it, and I’m allowed to think you are wrong. That’s equality. And this is goodbye. I’ll leave you with a feminist icon. First line, of the first song, on your first album: and nobody’s ever topped it. A bit worthier than a tantrum, I’d say, if the gentleman from Southampton is still reading. Until next time.


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