US Open 2018 | Umpires strike back: Match officials mull boycotting Serena Williams, forming a union

Upset with ITF’s delay in defending Carlos Ramos, match officials mull boycotting Serena Williams, forming a union.

By: Agencies | Updated: September 12, 2018 11:18:12 am

US Open 2018 Naomi Osaka of Japan, Serena Williams of the United States, and chair umpire Carlos Ramos talk after Ramos charges Williams with a game penalty. (Source: File)

Tennis umpires are considering boycotting future matches of Serena Williams after her outburst against gold-badge official Carlos Ramos during the US Open final. According to a report in The Times, a section of umpires could refuse to officiate in a match involving Williams, until the American apologises for calling Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” and citing sexism as the reason for the three code violations she received on Saturday night.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and United States Tennis Association (USTA) backed Williams’ claims after her straight sets defeat to Haitian-Japanese Naomi Osaka. The six-times US Open champion, who eventually lost the match 6-2 6-4 was fined $17,000 by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for her outburst. An anonymous official told The Times that there is a consensus that umpires were “not supported” by the USTA on several occasions, and that Ramos was “thrown to the wolves for simply doing his job and was not willing to be abused for it”.

There are now discussions about boycotting Williams’ matches between a group of umpires that lack a body to represent their interests. According to another report in The Guardian, umpires are also considering forming a union after Ramos was “hung out to dry” by the authorities despite upholding the rules. The officials are further enraged by the fact that it took International Tennis Federation (ITF) 48 hours to come to Ramos’ support.

“Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis. Mr. Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were reaffirmed by the U.S. Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences,” the ITF said in a statement on Monday.

Ramos, 47, is the only active tennis umpire to have officiated the men’s singles finals at all four Grand Slams. He has also been on the chair for the women’s singles finals at three of the four majors – the French Open in 2005, Wimbledon in 2008 and at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.

He received praise from the ITF for his professionalism in one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time.

“It is understandable that this high profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate,” the ITF added.

“At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr. Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”

The ITF’s support for Ramos comes after the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) expressed disappointment over the handling of the match and the USTA’s plans to review of its communication policies after a string of umpiring controversies. Williams’ behaviour in the final has divided the fraternity.

Tennis great Billie Jean King backed the American but Margaret Court, whose major wins record Williams was trying to equal on Saturday, expressed little sympathy for the 36-year-old.

Changes promised
Issues of sexism, officiating double standards and adverse playing conditions have dominated the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open, raising uncomfortable questions and prompting authorities to promise a review of existing policies.

Chair umpires took centre stage at Flushing Meadows this year, more than at any other tournament in recent memory, and culminated with Serena Williams being reduced to tears at her treatment in the women’s final. Her conduct, which earned her a game penalty during Saturday’s defeat by Naomi Osaka, and her comments that a male player would not have been penalised in the same way, have split the tennis world.

While Williams was fined a total of $17,000 by the tournament referees’ office for the three code violations she received from Portuguese umpire Carlos Ramos, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) also said it would review its policies in the wake of various officiating controversies.

Swedish umpire Mohamed Lahyani was reprimanded by the USTA for going “beyond protocol” when he climbed down from his chair to give Nick Kyrgios a pep talk during his second-round match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Umpire Christian Rask was also criticised after he gave Frenchwoman Alize Cornet a code violation for removing her shirt on court after she realised she had put it on back-to-front in the locker room during a mid-match heat break. All that pales in comparison to the furore surrounding Williams, who was given a game penalty for accusing chair umpire Carlos Ramos of being a “liar” and “a thief for stealing a point” from her in the women’s final.

Debate rages
Several prominent figures in the sport have backed Williams for exposing the double standards within tennis while others have criticised her for lacking sportsmanship. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has also weighed in, offering its backing to Williams, with chief executive Steve Simon saying different standards of tolerance exist for men and women.

“Yesterday brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches,” Simon said on Sunday.

“The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men v 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.” The beginning of the tournament saw organisers struggle to contend with a heat-wave in New York that resulted in the implementation of a heat policy — the first time ever it was applied in men’s matches.

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