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Andy Kirkaldy: Yes, that U.S. Open umpire was out of line

Wow, that Naomi Osaka is some tennis player, huh? Strong with good court coverage, great groundstrokes, booming serves, and what a lot of poise under pressure against Madison Keys in the U.S. Open semifinal last week and then Serena Williams in Saturday’s final.
What a bright future. If she ever learns to take advantage of her height and quickness to develop a net game, Osaka could be the next great women’s tennis player, if she isn’t already.
And yet, sadly, that’s not what anybody is talking about. Thanks for nothing, Carlos Ramos.
Ramos is the match official who penalized Williams a game for her conduct during the second set of her final match vs. Osaka on Saturday. The game penalty came with Williams about to serve in an attempt to tie the score at 4-4. Instead, she could only pull to within 5-4, which she did by holding serve. That meant Osaka, who had only lost one service game between her semifinal and final matches, would serve for the title.
She did so, successfully, winning her first Grand Slam in what was her first final, and thus denying Williams her record-tying 24th Grand Slam title. (Grand Slam events are the U.S., French and Australian opens, and Wimbledon.)
Before we go any further, a few notes:
1. Ramos was technically correct in his calls. Williams’ coach did wave at her to go to the net more. Although she didn’t see him, and this is legal in most women’s events and is almost always overlooked at Grand Slam events (never mind at crucial junctures in a final, and that we’re all shocked, shocked to see coaching at a tennis match), coaching during matches is not legal at women’s Grand Slams.
Williams did smash a racket, a conduct penalty, whether it could or could not have been overlooked. And when the second penalty had been assessed (Williams was not warned that a third could be forthcoming, thus resulting in game forfeiture), she did call Ramos “a thief” for taking a point away from her for damaging her racquet. And calling him a thief was the third strike.
2. Williams could probably have behaved better.
3. I don’t give a bucket of warm spit about points 1 and 2.
Here are two more notes, courtesy of The New Yorker’s Louisa Brown:
•  “At the French Open earlier this year, Rafael Nadal lit into Ramos after a time-delay warning, and declared that the umpire would never again officiate one of his matches. He was not penalized for his comments.”
•  During the 2009 U.S. Open men’s final, Roger Federer told the chair umpire “Don’t (expletive deleted) talk to me,” and “cursed at him multiple times.”
Federer was later fined $1,500, which I assume he found in the armrest of his Maserati, but apparently was not penalized even a point.
Of course, male players have been penalized in the past. John McEnroe was a tennis player, after all, and was once ejected from the Australian Open during a match he was leading. But it’s safe to say he did more than bang one racquet and call an official a thief.
But, yes, this does sure read like the old double standard. The guy is just blowing off steam, what a competitor. The girl is a bitch.
I’m not overstating this. Williams already had plenty of reason to complain in the past year. After her child was born late last year her doctors didn’t at first listen to her complaints that she wasn’t feeling well: She asked for a CT scan that might have saved her life.
After this year’s French open Williams was informed she could no longer wear her black form-fitting “catsuit” outfit, which helps her with her circulatory problems. “One must respect the game and the place,” said the president of the French Tennis Federation, Bernard Giudicelli.
Well, that’s not what they told Andre Agassi when he started wearing black outfits back in the day. He was lionized as a trailblazer. Let me translate Giudicelli’s remark: Williams needs to respect men and know her place.
Fortunately at least some men understand what’s going on. Here’s what former pro Andy Roddick had to say on Twitter: “I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty.”
Another former pro, James Blake, chimed in, also on Twitter: “I will admit I have said worse and not gotten penalized. And I’ve also been given a ‘soft warning’ by the ump where they tell you knock it off or I will have to give you a violation. He should have at least given her that courtesy. Sad to mar a well played final that way.” 
The heads of the Women’s Tennis and U.S. Tennis Association also backed Williams. USTA president and former tour player Katrina Adams, spoke up on ESPN: “We watch the guys do this all the time. They’re badgering the chair umpires all the time on the changeovers and nothing happens. There’s no equality between what the men are doing to the chair umpires and what the women are doing … I know what Serena did, and her behavior was not welcome, but when you look at Carlos or the umpires (in general), they’ve been called a lot worse.”
To her credit, Williams did what she could to bring the focus on Osaka after the match, telling the crowd not to boo and to celebrate the 20-year-old’s achievement. Osaka was an emotional wreck, actually apologizing for winning. Ramos robbed her of the clean victory she almost certainly would have earned fair and square without his interference.
Let’s hope she comes to appreciate her U.S. Open title and starts marching up the Grand Slam ladder.
But not at Williams’ expense. She deserves at least a couple more Slam titles. And a lot more respect. 

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