WTA calls for equal treatment and backs Williams in sexism row

Serena Williams argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Picture: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
Serena Williams argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Picture: Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images
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The WTA has backed up Serena Williams’ claim of sexism in the way she was treated by umpire Carlos Ramos during the US Open final.

Williams was warned for coaching, then docked a point for smashing a racket before Ramos penalised her a game after she called him a liar and a thief. That left the 23-time grand slam singles champion one game from defeat and in tears, with Naomi Osaka clinching her first slam title shortly afterwards.

Williams argued on court with tournament officials, claiming she was being treated differently to how a man would be in such circumstances, a theme she continued in her press conference.

The American has received a lot of support from current and former players, and Steve Simon chief executive of the women’s pro tour, the WTA, released a statement late on Sunday night which backed Williams.

Simon said: “Yesterday’s US Open final resulted in the crowning of a deserving new champion, Naomi Osaka. The WTA applauds Naomi for her tremendous accomplishment. Yesterday also brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches.

“The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs women and is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same. We do not believe that this was done last night.”

Simon also called for coaching to be allowed during grand slam matches. Ramos penalised Williams after seeing her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, making a hand gesture. The Frenchman later admitted he was trying to coach his player.

Simon continued: “We also think the issue of coaching needs to be addressed and should be allowed across the sport. The WTA supports coaching through its on-court coaching rule, but further review is needed.”

The United States Tennis Association, which runs the tournament, put out a statement from its president, Katrina Adams, hailing Williams for her “class” and “sportsmanship”. Appearing on ESPN, Adams also claimed there are double standards in terms of how umpires treat women and men.

Adams said: “We watch the guys do this all the time, they’re badgering the umpire on the changeovers, nothing happens. There’s no equality. I think there has to be some consistency across the board. These are conversations that will be imposed in the next weeks. We have to treat each other fairly and the same.

“I know what Serena did and her behaviour was not welcome, a line could have been drawn, but when you look at Carlos in this situation, it’s a judgment call to give that last penalty because she called him a thief. They’ve been called a lot more.

“[He could have said], ‘Hey, we’re getting out of hand here, let’s tone it down’. I think he would have [said that to a male player], I think it’s a bond that they have and they way they communicate, and maybe not understanding they can have that same conversation with the women.”

But former umpire Richard Ings has backed Ramos against allegations of sexism. Ings, who penalised John McEnroe a game during a match against Boris Becker in 1987, said Ramos umpired the match “absolutely perfectly”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Ings said: “Carlos Ramos is an umpire with 40 years of experience. He handled that match absolutely perfectly. He saw violations and he had the courage of his convictions to call them when he saw them. I support him 110 per cent. It was one of the best officiating jobs that I’ve seen in years.”

Former British tennis No 1 Annabel Croft said that, while she had sympathy for Williams, her claim that she had been treated differently because she is a woman was wide of the mark.

“I definitely feel sympathy for her because I was actually commentating on the match and I witnessed the whole thing unfolding and it was incredibly dramatic,” Croft told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

“But Carlos Ramos is not, I don’t believe, sexist. He’s a very strict, very decisive umpire, who takes nothing from any opponent whether they’re male or female.

“I’ve seen him giving time violations to Rafael Nadal out there on the court many, many times, but he’s someone who just plays it by the rule book.”