Caroline Wozniacki admits the issue of possible gender bias in tennis officiating never crossed her mind before Serena Williams accused umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism during the US Open final, but believes the Portuguese official could have handled the situation differently.
Speaking ahead of her participation at the Wuhan Open on Sunday, Wozniacki discussed the incident that saw Williams receive three code violations from Ramos that led to a game penalty in the final she lost to Naomi Osaka earlier this month.
Williams was infuriated when Ramos issued her a coaching code violation when he saw her coach Patrick Mouratoglou signal her during the second set. Wozniacki did not necessarily back Williams’ sexism claims but believes the Ramos should have given the American a soft warning before issuing a direct coaching violation.
“I never really thought about it ‘till that happened because to me, I’m so focused on just myself and our tour. I never really tried to compare us to the men,” said Wozniacki when asked if she ever felt she was being treated differently by an umpire compared to a male player.
“But I think Serena has a point. I think she has a point in some of what she’s saying. I think everyone has the right to their own opinion.
“I think that when you’re going into a Grand Slam final, you’re fighting for your 24th Slam, you’re fighting to be, on paper, the best player to ever have played the game – in my opinion I think she already is – I think there will be emotions involved. I think there will be some feelings there when you go onto the court.”
The WTA allows on-court coaching while Grand Slams do not and Wozniacki noted how Williams never requests Mouratoglou for coaching visits during any of her tour matches.
“If someone knows Serena, if someone has followed her career, she never gets coaching, and she never asks for the coach on court,” continued the Australian Open champion.
“I think as an umpire, as a great umpire, you obviously have to be a good umpire to be in the finals, you should also be aware that this is the situation. I think you should be aware that Serena is not one of those people that really looks up to the box or communicates with the box. That’s really what I can say in this situation.
“In my opinion I think that in the situation he probably should have given her a soft warning, and if he felt this is the way it was, said that ‘Your team is making signs, you need to make them stop’. That’s, in my opinion, the way that the umpires usually do it.
“If you were to be strict on this and say, ‘Any signs, anything’, then you should have taken both players and the coaches before the match and said, ‘Hey, I’m really strict today. I tolerate nothing. It’s the way it is’. That’s also okay.
“I think there should be some strict rules, and I think those rules are kind of a grey zone. I think every match should be the same.”
Some of the people who have come to Williams’ defence have pointed out the fact that not all umpires give coaching violations when a coach is spotted making signals from the stands. Mouratoglou admitted on camera that he was coaching during the final –which is strictly against the rules – but quickly mentioned that all coaches do it and never get called on it.
“I think there should just be maybe some clear rules. Either it’s allowed or it’s not allowed. If it’s not allowed, then it should be very strict. If it’s allowed, we are allowed coaching on the court, it’s allowed to have a little bit of encouragement or whatever, then it’s allowed,” said Wozniacki.
“I just think either way there should be some clearer guidelines. That’s really it. I think in general the umpires are very good with that.
“I think as a player you just kind of want to know. If you get a soft warning before, even if you think there’s nothing going on and you get a soft warning, at least you’re aware of it. That’s fair. But, you know, I think sometimes the player feels a different way than the umpire. Sometimes the umpire’s right, sometimes the player’s right.
“At the end of the day I think if you had clearer rules it would just be easier for everyone.”
Wozniacki, who is seeded No. 2 in Wuhan, opens her campaign against Swedish qualifier Rebecca Peterson, who beat Timea Babos on Sunday via retirement 6-7 (0), 6-4, 4-1.
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