Serena Williams vs. Osaka

Chang W. Lee and Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times; Ben Solomon for The New York Times

Serena Williams, the single most decorated player in Women’s Tennis and an American sports icon, faced off against Naomi Osaka, a twenty-year-old Japanese rising star in world tennis. The game ended with Osaka’s shocking win, but not without Williams causing a fair bit of controversy.

On the 45th anniversary of Margaret Court winning her 24th and final major, Williams was favored to mark her name in the history books. However, she crumbled in the second set, surrendering the entire game when she called the veteran umpire Carlos Ramos “a thief” for an apparent miscall. Osaka then held on to win 6-2, 6-4 – the first ever Japanese winner of a grand slam title.

It all started in the second set. Osaka was up 40-15 when Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou was called for a code violation, the first of three strikes before you are ejected from the game. Although he admitted to committing such an act after the game, Williams reacted furiously and yelled “I didn’t get coaching, I don’t cheat. You need to make an announcement. I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter! You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology.” This violation, on top of an added one for a thrown racket by Williams and her continued arguing, forced Williams to forfeit. Williams continued complaining even after the match, drawing immense crowds of boos during the award ceremony directed as Osaka.

This event formed several points of contention for the online media. There were accusations of sexism by the umpire Ramos for not giving the same amount of penalty to men for outbursts aimed at umpires, from which Williams has responded with claims that she would “keep fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality.” Williams believes the act of taking a game away from her just because she called Ramos “thief” was a sexist act, to which Ramos has denied allegations to. On the other hand, if the rules were strictly consulted, Williams has obviously crossed some lines. No coaching from the player’s box: code violation, warning. No smashing of racquets: code violation, point penalty. No abuse of officials, which under Grand Slam regulations includes questioning their integrity: code violation, game penalty.

This event has re-sparked political debates about societal double standards along with the treatment of female athletes. This idea has been previously identified as politically incorrect but was never properly dealt with. However, there isn’t enough solid evidence to deem Williams’ claims as correct. This is in the sporting grey area where a referee’s calls may have been incorrect, which is an individual error on Ramos’ part, but everyone is human.

One thing we know for sure is that Naomi Osaka, despite the controversy, played exceedingly well beyond her years and firmly established herself as one of the premier players in Women’s tennis. Her accomplishment should not be hazed by the political cloud that has overcast itself over the Finals. Good game, Osaka.

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