Martina Navratilova says Serena Williams should have done better to control her emotions during the US Open final against Naomi Osaka. The 18-time grand slam singles champion has stated the American was wrong in her outburst while acknowledging there is a double standard between women’s and single’s tennis.
In an opinion piece for the New York Times, the 61-year-old said a higher standard needed to be observed when Williams called chair umpire Carlos Ramos a “thief” and was docked a game in the second set while trailing 3-4.
“We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with,” Navratilova wrote. “In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
Serena was gunning for a record equalling 24th slam title when Osaka thwarted those aspirations in a 6-2, 6-4 win. The major title is first for Osaka and first for any Japanese player. Serena claimed she was punished for saying something where men have said things far worse and gone without being penalised.
“Serena Williams has part of it right. There is a huge double standard for women when it comes to how bad behavior is punished — and not just in tennis,” Navratilova said. “But in her protests… she also got part of it wrong. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of, ‘If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too’. Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”
The whole episode began when Serena was handed a code violation for coaching by Patrick Mouratoglou – which he admitted to doing. Williams was visibly upset with the violation call and let her thoughts known to Ramos. She complained that she hadn’t taken any signals. Williams later smashed her racquet to be broken, resulting in a code violation and a point deduction, which she argued at the change of ends.
“Ramos, effectively, had no choice but to dock her a point,” Navratilova said. “It was here that Ms. Williams really started to lose the plot. She and Mr. Ramos were, in effect, talking past each other. She was insisting that she doesn’t cheat — completely believable, but besides the point — while he was making a call over which he, at that point, had little discretion.”
Things escalated and Williams called Ramos a “thief,” incurring the crucial game penalty for a third violation for verbal abuse. “It’s difficult to know, and debatable, whether Ms. Williams could have gotten away with calling the umpire a thief if she were a male player,” Navratilova wrote. “But to focus on that, I think, is missing the point. If, in fact, the guys are treated with a different measuring stick for the same transgressions, this needs to be thoroughly examined and must be fixed.”