Novak Djokovic believes chair umpire Carlos Ramos “should not have pushed Serena Williams to the limit” during the US Open women’s final on Saturday but disagrees with WTA CEO Steve Simon, who put out a statement supporting the American’s accusations that the Portuguese official was sexist.
Williams received three code violations from Ramos during the final. The first was a coaching code violation warning because the umpire spotted her coach Patrick Mouratoglou signal her — something the French coach later admitted to doing. The second was a point penalty for racquet abuse because Williams smashed her racquet after getting broken by Osaka, and the third was a game penalty for verbal abuse, after the American called him a “liar” and a “thief”.
Williams later blasted the umpire and described his actions as “sexist” claiming she wouldn’t have received those code violations if she was a man. Simon sided with Williams’ allegations, releasing the following statement the day after the final.
“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,” said Simon.
Djokovic was asked to comment on the incident after he won his final against Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday and whether he agreed with Simon that officiating during the women’s title decider was sexist.
“Look, I love Serena, first of all. I really felt for her yesterday. Tough thing for a chair umpire to deal with, as well. We have to empathise with him. Everyone was in a very awkward situation yesterday. A lot of emotions. Serena was crying. Naomi was crying. It was really, really tough,” said Djokovic.
“But I have my personal opinion that maybe the chair umpire should not have pushed Serena to the limit, especially in a Grand Slam final. Just maybe changed — not maybe, but he did change the course of the match. Was, in my opinion, maybe unnecessary. We all go through our emotions, especially when you’re fighting for a Grand Slam trophy.”
The ITF has come out in defence of Ramos’ decisions, describing him as “one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis” and noted that his actions were “re-affirmed by the US Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams [$17,000] for the three offences”.
Djokovic has had his own run ins with Ramos, including an incident at Wimbledon this year where the Serb was given a warning for gently bouncing his racquet off of the ground. Djokovic called out Ramos for “double standards” when the Portuguese did not issue the same warning to his opponent Kei Nishikori, who also threw his racquet during the match. There was another incident between Djokovic and Ramos involving a time violation at the French Open last year.
Still Djokovic refused to describe Ramos’ officiating during the women’s final as sexist.
“I don’t see things as Mr. Simon does. I really don’t. I think men and women are treated in this way or the other way depending on the situation. It’s hard to generalise things, really. I don’t see it’s necessary really to debate that,” said Djokovic.
“I just feel like, as Serena said yesterday in the closing ceremonies, Osaka deserves to have her moment. As for Serena, she knows I love her. She really inspires everyone. To see her still being so dedicated and so committed to this sport, it’s inspiring really to me and to many tennis players, both men and women, around the world.”
Former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who is a good friend of Williams’, posted a live Instagram video to discuss the issue and while she agrees that a male player wouldn’t have been treated the same way, she feels the real problem lies in the fact that rules are not being enforced by all umpires in a consistent manner.
“People are emotional, he did the right thing [regarding the third code that resulted in a game penalty] but you can’t deny there have been a lot worse situations and there hasn’t been any action to it. There’s too much grey area in some of the rules and it bothers me. I’m not trying to justify anybody’s actions,” said Azarenka.
“I’m just saying that the first thing that started it [the coaching code], in my opinion, wasn’t right.”
The 20-year-old major winner couldn’t understand what was going on when Williams appeared to get into a fight with Ramos during the match.
“I’m not really sure what happened between Serena and the umpire,” Osaka said.
See Osaka’s full comments in the video below.
The International Tennis Federation has backed umpire Carlos Ramos in the row over his handling of the US Open final, saying he acted with “professionalism and integrity”.
The experienced Portuguese official has found himself at the centre of a storm involving accusations of sexism and racism over the way he treated Serena Williams.
Williams was docked a game in the crucial second set of her match against Naomi Osaka for calling the experienced Ramos a “thief” having previously received two code violations – and she used her subsequent post-match press conference to call her penalty “sexist”.
Her stance was swiftly backed by the WTA Tour’s chief executive Steve Simon and US great Billie Jean King, both of whom also questioned the initial code violation handed to Williams for on-court coaching.
Having initially said it would not comment, the ITF, the world governing body, later released a statement in support of Ramos’ decision-making.
The statement read: “Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis. Mr Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the US Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences.
“It is understandable that this high profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate. At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”
Former umpire Richard Ings, who penalised John McEnroe a game during a match against Boris Becker in 1987, hailed Ramos for his decisions and said he 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 number one 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.”
Great Britain Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong also suggested Williams was in the wrong, tweeting: “Sexism is a problem in the wider picture of tennis but I don’t believe the decisions Carlos Ramos made that night had anything to do with it.”
Writing in the New York Times, Martina Navratilova criticised Williams for her behaviour, saying: “It’s difficult to know, and debatable, whether Ms Williams could have gotten away with calling an umpire a thief if she were a male player. But to focus on that, I think, is missing the point.
“If, in fact, the guys are treated with a different measuring stick for the same transgressions, this needs to be thoroughly examined and must be fixed. But we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behaviour that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
Osaka, for whom this was a first grand slam title, had to be comforted by Williams on the podium as loud jeers erupted around the stadium.
Talking to the Today show on NBC, the 20-year-old said: “I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me, or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted.”
Osaka blocked out what was going on around her as she tried to focus on winning the match, and has not yet had a chance to watch the footage back.
She said: “I can’t really form an opinion right now. For sure I want to watch everything and I want to know what happened because this was one of the biggest things that happened to me.”
Toni Nadal, formerly the coach of his nephew Rafael Nadal, was penalised for coaching several times and believes Williams was harshly treated.
He said: “There are some umpires who seem to enjoy being protagonists rather than to try to make the match unfold without this kind of incident. There are others who understand, however, that this measure is somewhat relative and they are more inclined to warn you before punishing you.
“I won fame for talking to my nephew from the box during the matches, and on occasion the referees told Rafael, ‘Tell your uncle to shut up’, or they showed me with their eyes that they were vigilant. It’s always been absurd to me that the coach cannot give a shout to his player.”
Nadal, though, did not excuse Williams’ reaction, saying: “It can be understood it was a moment of maximum stress for the player and that she felt impotent in a final that was becoming frankly uphill.
“What is difficult to understand, however, is that an athlete of the magnitude and prestige of the American cannot control their nerves on the court and be carried away by their emotions. You have to demand the good behaviour of the players on the court. About that I think there is no argument.”