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He-Said/She-Said: Serena Williams

Connor Amato and Lauren Walston, Staff Writers

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He Said… Connor Amato, Staff Writer

Earlier this month, Serena Williams, victor of 13 grand-slam titles in past US opens, faced off against Naomi Osaka in the finals of the 2018 US open. During the match, Serena was penalized, and Osaka was given a penalty point. Serena was outraged, yelled names at the umpire, and was penalized again, resulting in an almost automatic win for Osaka. I’m sure you have all seen the buzz in the news about this penalty is a double standard since this sort of yelling and anger often occurs in Men’s tennis without penalties being received, meaning an unfair penalization for Williams.

However, before we call it a double standard and blame the umpire and US Tennis Association, let’s take a closer look at the setting. On the second set of the match, Umpire Carlos Ramos gave a code violation to Williams for coaching. Coaching is a penalty in tennis for when a player gets guidance from a coach during the game or in time-outs. Serena was frustrated by this call and was seen visibly offended by his accusation of cheating. After Serena talked to Ramos, she believed she had reached a consensus with Ramos that she didn’t cheat. Then, after Osaka scored twice and won the set, Williams launched her racket at the ground, breaking it. This is an automatic code violation. Ramos gave Osaka a penalty point, which is given after two code violations by the opponent. Serena is confused at first, only realizing moments later what had happened. She yells at Ramos for calling her a cheater and cites her daughter as a reason she would stay honest. After more arguing and screaming, Ramos penalized Williams a third time, giving an automatic win to Osaka.

If we examine the context of the penalty, we can see why Serena may have just been a sore loser. She had just lost the set, and she could damage her outstanding record in the US opens. This situation was probably very stressful, and this combative arguing was a display of this frustration. Still, there is the argument that the Umpire called this penalty on Serena just because she was a woman. While many umpires wouldn’t call this in men’s tennis, Ramos isn’t one of those Umpires. Ramos is a known stickler for these types of penalties. Serena should have known this and been more careful from the start. The call against coaching isn’t even unfair, as Serena’s coach admitted to trying to communicate with her during the match claiming that all coaches do that. The claims of sexism, bias, and unfairness are just an overreaction to a penalty on which Ramos is more of a stickler. Stephen A. Smith put it well when he said that Serena was wrong and that “when Serena Williams brought the issue of sexism and gender into the argument, that’s when she lost.” He went on to cite many examples of Ramos penalizing men for this same penalty. Another reason why claims of sexism are an overreaction is that even when men got away with this arguing, they were called sore losers and babies by the media. Due to this uproar and media backlash, Serena Williams took the attention off of Osaka’s first US Open win and made the events of the tournament about herself. If we want to treat men and women equally, we should also be calling Serena Williams a sore loser in the media.

She Said…Lauren Walston, Staff Writer

Earlier this month at the US Open, Serena Williams was a victim of double standards in sports. Her character and ability were questioned, and she was penalized for voicing her opinion. Williams has competed in tennis matches for almost 20 years, and she has seen and heard many things. She has heard men use words much worse than “thief” on the court and walk away without a penalty. Serena Williams was displaying emotions, as any upset person would, and she was seen as “overreacting” and viewed as a sore loser. Why should she, or any woman, be penalized for expressing how they feel? In addition to this, she was punished for her coaches’ actions of telling her what to do on the side court, and she felt that her character was judged. “He took a point from me after he alleged I was cheating, and I wasn’t cheating. I had a good conversation with him: ‘You know my character. You know me really well.’ I don’t even call for an on-court coach. He said, ‘I understood what you are saying,'” Williams explained after the match. Many of her colleagues stood up for her, including Billie Jean King. Victoria Azarenka, a two-time U.S. Open runner-up, supported Williams’ stance and wrote on Twitter: “If it were a men’s match, this wouldn’t happen like this. It just wouldn’t.”

Professional male tennis players in the world’s top 200 have earned 70% more than their female counterparts. In the past decades, female tennis athletes have fought and still fight for equal pay. Gains have been made, but equity still has a long way to go. It is not only this way in tennis. The Women’s Sports and Fitness Federation reported that “women’s sport only gets 7% of media coverage and barely 0.4% of commercial investment goes to women-only sport.” Women are also underrepresented in endorsement deals. For example, Nike had two drastically different reactions when it came to Maria Sharapova’s drug suspension, in contrast to Kobe Bryant’s rape accusation or the infidelity scandal with Tiger Woods. In brand sponsoring, athletes who are women are judged on their attractiveness and physical appearance, whereas males are primarily judged for their skill and performance. The conversation of women in sports has been long overdue, and sadly, it started at the expense of the recent US Open Women’s Singles Championship. Though this unfortunate situation happened, Serena Williams feels that she has paved the way for the next scene like this to happen to a strong woman.

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He-Said/She-Said: Serena Williams