Democracy Dies in Darkness

Early Lead

After Serena Williams incident, the USTA head says there’s a double standard in tennis

September 11, 2018 at 2:42 PM

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Sportswriter Liz Clarke analyzes the U.S. Open women's final controversy, where tennis Serena Williams was fined $17,000 for violations, and what it means for the future of female tennis players. (Taylor Turner, Melissa Macaya/The Washington Post)

While the head of the U.S. Tennis Association said that both Serena Williams and the chair umpire working the women’s U.S. Open championship singles match bore some responsibility for a situation that spiraled out of control Saturday, she believes there is a double standard at play when it comes to how male and female tennis players are treated.

“In my opinion, right now, yes, and it probably always has been,” Katrina Adams, the CEO of the sport’s governing body, told “CBS This Morning” Tuesday. “I think it’s a matter of having a conversation with the two guys and saying let’s cut it out, let’s slow it down, and then perhaps not understanding how they can have the same conversation with the females. We shouldn’t have to carry that extra weight on our back in anything that we do. I think that’s probably the context of the conversation.”

It’s a conversation that has been raging ever since the incident, which occurred in the second set of Naomi Osaka’s victory over Williams. Umpire Carlos Ramos issued a warning to Williams about receiving coaching from the stands, something that happens often but is prohibited in Grand Slam events like the Open. Williams protested verbally after the warning. Later, she smashed her racket and was penalized a point. She angrily called Ramos a “thief,” pointed out that she has never cheated, mentioned how she tries to set an example for her daughter and demanded an apology. Ramos penalized her a game for verbal abuse, something virtually unheard of in such an important match. She later was fined $17,000 ($10,000 for verbal abuse, $4,000 for the coaching violation and $3,000 for racket abuse).

Adams noted that Ramos was “following the code,” but added that a “soft” warning for coaching could have averted the blowup over something that happens frequently on the men’s and women’s sides.

Related: [In her anger, in defeat, Serena Williams starts an overdue conversation]

Bottom line: both parties could have defused the situation, as Martina Navratilova and Mary Carillo pointed out.

“At the end of the day, Serena could have handled it a little bit differently,” Adams said. “She’s passionate. She was speaking out. And I think for Ramos, he was a little defensive at that point, and was fed up as opposed to saying, ‘Okay, let’s get back to business.’”

Roger Federer was fined just $1,500 for a berating an umpire with an expletive during the 2009 U.S. Open, and Adams pointed out that the amount of fines is at the discretion of the administrator of the four Grand Slam events, not the USTA. Fines, which could go up to $20,000 for each code violation, can be appealed.

Read more from The Post:

Perspective: The power of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka is overshadowed by an umpire’s power play

Perspective: Dignity was vanquished at the U.S. Open. Then Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka showed us how to recover with grace.

As Billie Jean King decries tennis’s double standard, Serena Williams is fined $17,000


Cindy Boren arrived at The Post in 2000 as an assignment editor in charge of baseball and NFL/Redskins coverage. She switched to full-time writing, focusing on national sports stories and issues, when she founded The Early Lead blog in 2010.

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