I was watching with the rest of the tennis nation when 20-year-old Naomi Osaka from Japan beat out the force of nature who is Serena Williams in a stunning 6-2 6-4 upset at the U.S. Open women’s singles final. What was originally hyped as Williams’ big comeback after becoming a new mother turned out to be the biggest upset of the year — but for the wrong reasons.
After receiving a warning from chair umpire Carlos Ramos for getting help from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou (he was gesturing for her to “move forward” toward the net), Williams hurried to Ramos’ chair and began desperately trying to convince Ramos that she “did not cheat.” Later, Mouratoglou would admit to coaching, but said, “Everybody does it — you all know it. There is the rule and there’s a psychology the chair umpire is supposed to have. He would say he saw you coach, do a movement and give a warning. What he did was so extreme. It’s a shame.”
What’s so ironic about that statement was that was exactly what Ramos did! He gave a warning. Nothing extreme. No points lost. Just a warning.
But Williams was furious that her integrity was put in question.
“I have never cheated in my life,” she argued. “I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I have never cheated. You owe me an apology.”
Ramos did not apologize; in fact, he ended up “stealing” another point away from Williams for code violation No. 2 after she smashed her racquet on court. Williams again rushed the chair and began demanding that Ramos apologize, once she realized he had not revoked the first code violation for illegal coaching.
“You’re a thief!” Williams said. “You need to apologize! Say it now!”
Ramos, again, did not apologize but instead issued code violation No. 3 for harassment and verbal abuse of the chair umpire which, according to the rulebook is defined as, “a statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive." Therefore, calling Ramos a “thief” and saying he “stole a point” from her resulted in a loss of a game. Williams flew off the handle and called for a referee, tearfully trying to save what was left of the match — and her dignity.
Meanwhile, Osaka calmly stood at the other side of the court, waiting for Williams to calm down and get back in the game. After this eventually happened, Osaka closed out the match, becoming the first person ever from Japan to win a Grand Slam title.
This should have been an amazing, unforgettable moment.
Instead, it was marred by booing crowds, drama, and the childhood phrase used over and over by Williams at things “not being fair.”
First off: Serena Williams is arguably one of the best female tennis players to have ever played. She is exciting to watch. She is an incredible athlete and a dedicated new mother. There is much to admire about her. However, her loss and bad behavior was 100 percent on her.
Williams argued that sexism came into play, and there is no doubt that exists in the world of sports, business and just in general — but that had nothing to do with her loss. In fact, according to an article in USA Today, “during the three previous Grand Slams — the French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open — men were assessed 59 code violations, almost twice as many as the women.”
Second, Serena blaming the chair umpire for her loss is like blaming a fire for burning you after you purposefully stick your hand inside. Where is the accountability? Did she know the rules? Yes. Yet, she still chose to break her racquet and yell at the umpire.
I love the podcast by Meg Meeker, “Parenting Good Kids,” and I just listened to an episode where TodaysMama.com founder Rachael Herrscher shares an incredible strategy in her home that she teaches her kids to do on a daily basis, that I think everyone in this entire world should implement, and that could have completely turned things around had Williams practiced it in her match. They are called “‘I’ Statements.”
When one of her kids comes tearing up the stairs in tears because she was fighting with her brother, mama Herrscher says, “I, fill in the blank.” They are not allowed to use the “he said, she said.” I words only.2 comments on this story
Serena, say it with me: I received a warning for illegal coaching and that made me mad. I knew the rules. I know doing something wrong just because everyone else does it (i.e., the men) doesn’t make it right. I let my emotions get the best of me. I smashed my racquet. I argued with, yelled at, and harassed the chair umpire. I tried to talk my way out of a consequence. I lost the match.
Naomi’s turn: I played an incredible match, besting my opponent and childhood idol by striking six aces, twice as many as Williams, and winning 73 percent of the points on my first serve, while Williams took 63 percent. I fought against Williams’ powerful serve and won 45 percent of return points while Williams won 36 percent. I played better. I behaved better. I won the match, fair and square.