Women’s Tennis Association Characterizes Serena Williams’ Penalty As Sexist

The Women’s Tennis Association has weighed in on the controversial U.S. Open one-game penalty against Serena Williams, saying she was not treated the same way a male player would have been during her argument with an umpire. 

The International Tennis Federation, the governing body of world tennis, quickly defended chair umpire Carlos Ramos of Portugal as “respected” and professional.

During Saturday’s women’s final, Ramos warned Williams for getting a signal from her coach, who was in the stands. She denied it. He then penalized her a point when she later broke her racket in frustration during play. When she called him a “thief” for taking away a point, Ramos penalized her an entire game in her second, losing set against ultimate winner Naomi Osaka.

Several critics pointed out that outbursts by male players aren’t often penalized. Williams herself called it “sexist” that women are held to different standards of comportment on the court. “It blows my mind,” she said after the game.

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A statement issued Sunday by WTA CEO Steve Simon said that the women’s association “believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs. women, and is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same. We do not believe that this was done last night.”

The statement also said that coaching during games should be allowed, and that the issue needs to be addressed.

Katrina Adams, the chair of the U.S. Tennis Association, the national governing body for the sport in America, also complained to ESPN after the match. “We watch the guys do this all the time; they’re badgering the umpire on the changeovers. Nothing happens. There’s no equality,” she said.

U.S. Open men’s champ Novak Djokovic said Ramos “pushed Serena to the limit” and “changed the course of the match.” He added: “It was, in my opinion, maybe unnecessary. We all go through our emotions, especially when you’re fighting for a Grand Slam trophy.”

The ITF defended Ramos in a statement, calling him “one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis,” and said that his decisions were “in accordance with the relevant rules.”

The statement noted that his penalties were “re-affirmed” by the U.S. Open’s decision later to fine Williams $17,000.  She was fined $10,000 for “verbal abuse” of Ramos, $4,000 for mid-match coaching and $3,000 for breaking her racket.

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