I’ve been on the fence about even writing on this topic, as it’s so very touchy, though I have my views on what happened. I watched the match, the incident, and the aftermath several times over. I am deeply saddened for tennis after the match. We witnessed a moment that will go down in history, likely more memorable than that of John Millman beating Roger Federer, or Simona Halep getting bumped out early on. Or even the sweltering heat and humidity during the Open, or the matches that went on past 2am EST.
US Open Women’s Final Incident Recap
There you have the US Open Women’s Final Incident video, documenting everything that happened.
Though, here’s the breakdown for what happened, in case it needs to be spelled out:
1-0, second set: Serena Williams given code violation warning for coaching
3-2, second set: After Naomi Osaka breaks Serena Williams’ serve, Williams’ breaks her racquet and receives a second code violation for racquet abuse
3-4, second set: At the change of ends, Williams continues to defend her not being a cheat calling Carlos Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” and receives a third code violation for verbal abuse
If you don’t know how the rules of tennis work (for both WTA, ATP, and all other ITF Events), there is a violation schedule:
First Code Violation: Warning
Second Code Violation: Point Penalty
Third and Subsequent Code Violations: Game(s) Penalty
Unfortunately for Serena Williams, she received 3 code violations, which in my opinion were justly given. Ramos did his job. That’s the bottom line here. He was following the rules of the sport. You can find all rules here for the ITF, WTA, and ATP. You’ll notice the violations rules are all the same across the board and have equal consequences.
US Open Women’s Final Incident: Did Patrick Mouratoglou actually coach?
Well, yes, he did. But how you ask? He was making hand gestures in a “move forward” movement (look at gif below), not once, but about 4 times in succession. Then gave a little “nod” to confirm. Because of this, Williams received her first code violation warning. Also if you watch the video above at 12:40, you can see and hear him admit to coaching, “Well, I mean, I am honest, I was coaching…” and followed that admission with, “…well Sascha was coaching every point too….” That definitely feels like Patrick go caught with his hand in the cookie jar; and if you remember your childhood, you’ll remember fighting with your siblings and placing blame on them for when your parents busting you for your wrongdoing (at times, of course).
— Ashish TV Slams (@ashishtvslams) September 8, 2018
But people are feverishly stating that she couldn’t even see him from her point of view. Ugh. Really? I sincerely doubt that any of these people claiming she didn’t see him weren’t standing at the court, let alone at the venue; I wasn’t either, but I did hear Serena say, “I thought he was giving me a thumbs up” to Carlos Ramos. That my friends, is admission of seeing him.
The players on court are 100% responsible for their coach, and teams, actions. Because Mouratoglou sent hand signals is a violation of the Grand Slam Code of Conduct. Williams argued that she wasn’t being coached or cheating, “I don’t cheat to win.” The issue here is, nobody accused her of cheating or asking for coaching, at all. Serena did not cheat. Repeat that in your head, Serena did not cheat. Her coach, however, did. And Williams had to suffer to consequences of his actions. That’ s how the rules are written:
Now, before you get up in arms about “it’s different for men” and all that, this rule is for all people who play the sport; with the exception of “Case 3” above. The ATP never allows on court coaching during events. The WTA has most non-slam tournaments sanctioned to allow on court coaching (read more about WTA On Court Coaching). With all that being said, I do hope the ITF, WTA, and ATP take a serious look at the coaching issue and either make it completely equal and transparent, for all players, or remove coaches allowed in the stadium during player matches. There cannot be a middle ground with the coaching during tennis matches.
US Open Women’s Final Incident: Tournament Violations?
So if the claim is that the WTA is singled out by umpires because of gender, let’s look at some of the violation statistics from the tournament:
2018 US Open
— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) September 10, 2018
Who is Christopher Clarey? Mr. Clarey is global sports columnist New York Times Tennis writer & player. The Slams since 1990. 15 Olympics. 5 World Cups. You can read his full bio here; I would say that he’s definitely a credible source for this information regarding how many men received code violations at the 2018 US Open.
US Open Women’s Final Incident: What now?
Well, I sincerely hope that Ramos doesn’t lose his job over this, he’s one of the most respected umpires on the tour, even a Gold Badge Umpire…which is one of the highest decorations an umpire can have in tennis. Unfortunately, things aren’t looking good for him as the USTA and WTA have thrown him under the bus, by siding with Serena Williams all the while the guy was just trying to do his job. All of this and Ramos only earns $450 for officiating the match. I’m not sure I would withstand such restraint and composure that he showed for $450.
I don’t know what is going to happen after this. I would hope that the ITF meets with all tournament directors and umpire directors to either abolish some of the rules or clearly define the rules that are in place. This way they can be absolutely, 100%, clear to every player and coach.
The bottom line is that Serena Williams was frustrated with her performance and it got to her. Osaka was the better player. That should be the headline.