Serena Williams, one of the greatest tennis players in the history of sports have left the internet divided with her ‘action and reaction.' In the recently concluded US Open 2018 women’s singles finals, she was beaten convincingly by Naomi Osaka. A new champion was crowned at the Flushing Meadows after the 20-year-old Naomi thrashed Serena in straight sets 6-2, 6-4 to become the first Japanese player to win a grand slam title. However, as we all know, the limelight was not on Naomi but on Serena who had a major showdown with the tennis match’s chair umpire Carlos Ramos. The matter escalated so fast that Williams accused the sport, which made her a global icon, of sexism. Now everyone from fans to experts and tennis bodies from ITF to WTA seem divided on the matter. As an avid tennis follower as well as a proud feminist, here’s why I feel Serena has desecrated both tennis and feminism with her megalomania.
I have never been a huge Serena Williams fan, but that did not stop me from appreciating her incredible achievements. She has won 23 grand slams, one record short of the most number of major titles held by Margaret Court. I started following Serena’s game much more after she made an impressive comeback after her maternity break, including the life-threatening post-delivery period. After all, she reached finals of back-to-back grand slams at the Wimbledon and now the US Open this year. Come on, she has more grand slam titles than men’s singles champs such as Roger Federer (20) and Rafael Nadal (17). But on Saturday at year’s final grand slam final, Serena showcased an ugly side of hers – No, we are not talking about Serena the Bully but Serena the Mastermind who will go any length to be the centre of attention.
By this time, we all know Serena was furious with Carlos Ramos, for giving her three code violations, which gave a game point to Osaka in the second set. It had all begun with the Portuguese tennis umpire catching Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou engaging in on-court coaching, which is not allowed. It was followed by Serena smashing her racket while the third and final point penalty was awarded after Serena charged at the chair umpire. After verbally abusing the match official for doing his job, she called Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” and that he treated her differently than male players. "I have never cheated in my life," Williams said. "I have a daughter and I stand for what is right and I have never cheated." Problems begin here. Amul’s ‘Unserene’ Cartoon On Serena Williams-US Open Controversy Slammed By Netizens.
Firstly, Carlos Ramos, warned Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou who admitted to making tactical gestures despite Serena denying it. Now, in tennis, there is no rule to punish the coach and it is the player who is given a penalty point. Secondly, Ramos is an umpire who is known to be stringent with rules and yes, he takes his job seriously irrespective of players of either gender. Remember, how he penalised both Novak Djokovic and Marco Cecchinato for receiving on-court coaching earlier this year. Thirdly, what is with “I have a daughter and I stand for what is right” statement? How having a daughter justify her wild act of throwing tantrums like a bully on the court is beyond me. The only plausible reason I can think of is playing the mother card, which is just not right.
If her on-court salvo at Ramos was not enough, Serena took her fight to the press conference. Williams said, "you definitely can't go back in time, but I can't sit here and say I wouldn't call him a thief again because I thought he took a game from me." She further added, "But I've seen other men call other umpires several things and I'm here fighting for women's rights and women's equality and all kinds of stuff, but for me to say 'thief' and for him to take a game? It made me feel like it was a sexist remark," Williams said. "I mean, he's never taken a game from a man because he said thief. For me, it blows my mind." The answer is Carlos Ramos did not immediately take her game point away but did so after giving her three code violations. And once again, playing the women’s rights and sexism card only takes away from the fact that her behaviour was problematic in the first place.
As for the netizens who are constantly highlighting the Roger Federer’s antics during US Open 2009 men’s singles finals against Juan Martin Del Potro when the Swiss ace was caught up hurling abuses at the umpire Jake Garner, the answer is it was a different umpire and not Carlos Ramos. Judgments and following rules differ from individual to individual. Serena loosely attacked Ramos’ character accusing him of being biased towards male players when there has been no instance of the Portuguese umpire going soft on player’s of a particular gender for the same offence.
There are several fans and celebrities who have come out in support of Serena saying the American tennis player deserved an apology for ‘female players’ having worked so hard to reach this level. No, absolutely NOT!! Throwing tantrums, using the stardom to turn the tide in her favour and importantly, snatching the glorious moment of a young player who had worked hard to be at the stage is outright disgusting. Come on’, it pained us to see Naomi Osaka apologise and her only crime was beating Serena Williams, the ace cry-baby. It is unfortunate how influential figures such as Serena Williams misuse women's rights movements for their selfish reasons and successively gain support for it. When a person talks about gender equalities, they have to be prepared to shoulder equal responsibilities. And it was just not responsible of Serena to loosely plug in sincere movements such as women’s rights to cover her defeat.
Lastly, the reason why I am so hurt with the recent turn of events is that the sport I revere is getting targeted because one day one star player declared it as 'sexist'. Tennis has taught so much about life. One could be one point away from losing, but it still gives the person a chance to make a comeback and win eventually.
Serena Williams may win more grand slams in the coming years and continue to be a GOAT (greatest of all time) but her unsportsmanlike behaviour will also earn her another tag - A SORE LOSER! In fact, she has gotten worse. Earlier, Serena threatened match officials (remember, her dialogue “I swear to God I’ll f*****g take the ball and shove it down your f*****g throat” during her loss against Kim Clijsters in 2009) and stopped at that. But now Serena openly engages in bullying and nasty behaviour on the court and then justifies it by masking her pathetic act under the cloak of equality, feminism and so on. It is time we apply our brain and not fall for celebrities who double up as pseudo-influencers.
(The opinions expressed in the above article are of the author and do not reflect the stand or position of LatestLY.)