For Hank Aaron, the backlash Serena Williams experienced after her loss in Saturday’s U.S. Open final sounded all too familiar.

The baseball Hall of Famer confronted plenty of ugliness as he was pursuing Major League Baseball’s home run record in the 1970s, and in an interview with Forbes, he said the criticism Williams has faced — including an Australian newspaper cartoon decried as racist — bears echoes of his own past.

“It takes me right back to what I had to deal with when I was chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record, because I think the whole thing with Serena is so rude and so cruel,” he told Terence Moore. “I spent 23 years in baseball. And then before I knew it, I was getting all of this hostile mail and all of that during my last couple of years. And with Serena, I started thinking about those things again.”

Watching the women’s final between Williams and Naomi Osaka from his Atlanta home, Aaron saw Williams react angrily when chair umpire Carlos Ramos warned her about receiving coaching, something that happens commonly in tennis but is rarely sanctioned. When she smashed her racket, Ramos docked her a point. When Williams called him a thief and demanded an apology, he docked her a game, a shocking penalty in the final of a Grand Slam event. Williams lost, 6-2, 6-4, with the loss setting off widespread debate over potential sexism and double standards in tennis.

“I saw how Serena was being treated, and then I thought about coming back to my locker one day as a player, and there was [a reporter] in my chair,” said Aaron, who endured racist taunts and death threats as he marched toward Babe Ruth’s record. “I said something to get him out, and he wrote a letter to [then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn], and the commissioner wrote me back saying, ‘If you do it again, I’m going to suspend you from baseball.’ ”

That’s something, Aaron told Moore, that he had never mentioned publicly before.

“I thought about those things watching Serena, and I said, ‘This kid has been playing all of  these years, and I don’t think she’s ever been accused of cheating before it happened on Saturday.'” he said, “And [tennis coaches], they all cheat, no matter how you look at it. They’re sitting up there in the stands saying, ‘Go this way. Do that.’ ”

The Williams incident has generated untold headlines this week, with some luminaries, such as Billie Jean King and USTA head Katrina Adams, saying tennis has a double standard in which men are not similarly punished for outbursts, and others, like Martina Navratilova and Mary Carillo, defending tennis’s rules.

The incident reportedly prompted tennis umpires to consider whether to boycott Williams’s matches in the future. Ramos, who is set to call Davis Cup matches this week between the United States and Croatia, told Tribuna Expresso in his native Portugal that “I’m fine, given the circumstances,” according to USA Today. “It’s a delicate situation,” Ramos said, “but ‘a la carte’ arbitration does not exist. Do not worry about me!”

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