Fan Perspective

The Tennis World Doesn’t Deserve Serena Williams

NORMAN JEAN ROY

 

Carlos Ramos, the USTA and the US Open still owe Serena Williams an apology.

Almost two weeks ago, Serena Williams was going for a record tying twenty-fourth Grand Slam title playing against Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Naomi ended up beating Serena, however, her win and moment were ruined by umpire Carlos Ramos.

During their second set, Ramos gave Serena a code violation warning for coaching after he ruled that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, gave her hand signals from the stands. This is something Serena vehemently denied. “If he gives me a thumbs up, he’s telling me to ‘come on’. We don’t have any code and I know you don’t know that and understand why you may have thought that was coaching but I’m telling you, it’s not. I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.”

After this exchange, things took a turn for the worse. During the sixth game of the second set, Serena smashed her racket resulting in a second violation. Once again, Serena went to Ramos explaining that he owed her an apology. At the change of the seventh game, Serena called Ramos a thief to which he didn’t like and gave her third violation for verbal abuse.

This isn’t the first time Serena has had issues US Open officials. In 2009, the line judge accused Serena of saying she would kill her. Something that Serena also denied. Serena did go on a profanity laced tirade something that her male counterparts do all of the time with little to no consequences.

During her match she called for the referee and explained that what was happening to her was essentially a double standard. Brian Earley, a longtime tournament referee and Donna Kelso, the Grand Slam supervisor had an exchange with Serena to which she said, “You know me. You know my character. This is not right, this is not fair. This has happened to me too many times. This is not fair. For me to lose a game for saying that is not fair. You know how many other men do things that are much worse than that. This is not fair. There are a lot of men out here who have said a lot of things but because they are men, this doesn’t happen to them.”

Carlos Ramos inserting himself into the game as he did was disgraceful. He couldn’t handle a woman speaking to him sharply and used his power to teach Serena a lesson. While Serena was frustrated, she wasn’t in any way being abusive toward Ramos. He abused his power. How Ramos treated Serena during the US Open was sexist. Her male counterparts have said and done much worse. Serena was emotional not hysterical nor did she have a meltdown, describing her in such a way is sexist.

I often wonder why does Serena receive so much blowback. Is it that a Black woman has been a dominate force in perceived white sports for almost twenty years?

The way the tennis world treats Serena is downright despicable. The coded language that is used to describe her, the tone policing that takes place with the commentators during her matches, the dress code and the big elephant in the room; the drug testing. Serena is the greatest athlete to step foot on a tennis court and gets drug tested more than her peers. She’s never cheated nor has she taken any performance enhancement drugs but yet here she is.

When people comment that they want Serena to be respectful, what they really mean is they want her to be quiet. You know, be thankful that a Black girl from Compton has made it this far. Been seen and not heard. Serena is still owed an apology.

Black women from all faucets of life are socialized to be “strong,” to carry around the weight of others and to suffer in silence. We’re often seen as angry, confrontational and masculine and rarely passionate and feminine. I believe Ramos took issue with Serena because she dared to stick up for herself and by doing so stood up for other women. She dared in that moment to demand an apology which is given far, few and in between to Black women. Publicly or privately.

It’s been almost two weeks since the US Open Finals and I still think about the match. I think about how the referees didn’t come to her defense. I think about the lazy questions during the post conference when reporters asker her how she would explain her behavior to her daughter.  I think about the commentators who were tone policing Serena during and after the match. I think about how we as Black women aren’t given or shown grace. Had this had happen to Maria Sharapova, the world would’ve had a  different conversation. The media wouldn’t have said she had a meltdown, the media would be demanding for Ramos to give an apology and there most certainly wouldn’t have been a racist cartoon draw of her.

Serena is very graceful, and at times I feel too graceful.

What happened at the US Open was deplorable. Time and time again Serena continues to rise above the insanity, however,  if what happened at the US Open causes her to retire I wouldn’t even be mad because the tennis world deserve her.

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