Williams and the U.S. Open

The issue of sexism revolving around tennis


Photo contributed by commons.wikimedia.com

Serena Williams is without a doubt one of the best athletes in the world. Williams has broken numerous records, including having won more grand slam tournaments than any other man or woman. In just 23 years, Williams has forever changed the game of tennis and women’s athletics as a whole.

Williams is not just a tennis superstar, but she is also a champion for women. She has proved time and time again the strength of women. Williams has been bullied, and still is, for her appearance, and reporters have criticized Williams’s body from day one. Reporters have even made comments along the lines of “Williams was actually born a man,” and refer to Serena and her sister, Venus, as the Williams brothers.

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Williams said, “This is me, and this is my weapon and machine.”

Despite all the critics, Williams has stunned on the covers of different magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.

What has been even more inspiring to watch is Williams’s fearless return to the sport after a near death experience after the birth of her daughter, Olympia, last year.

Williams was chained to her bed for six weeks after giving birth because of life-threatening health issues. Williams suffered a pulmonary embolism, a hematoma in her abdomen and underwent major surgery to prevent blood clots from forming and traveling to her lungs. Not only did Williams return to the Women’s Tennis Association tour in 2018 after this series of traumatizing events, she also used her experience to advocate for a UNICEF campaign to provide better medical practices to pregnant women and newborns. 

Even if you are not the biggest fan of Williams, you have to admit that she is one incredibly strong woman. 

However, Williams’ strength and character have been called into question with her recent behavior at the 2018 U.S. Open. During the finals, Williams was penalized for smashing her racquet, arguing with the umpire and illegally receiving coaching during the match. Williams denies that there was any illegal communication between her and her long-time coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, even though Mouratoglou has confirmed that he was giving signals to Williams.

Williams claims that although Mouratoglou has admitted he was making motions, she had no clue what the motions meant, therefore she was not cheating. What made the situation worse, was how Williams treated the umpire, Carlos Ramos, after receiving the penalty. Instead of behaving like a nearly 40-year-old professional who has played on the tour for more than 20 years, Williams threw a full blown tantrum.

“Thief” was just one of the unkind names Williams chose to repeatedly call the umpire.  Williams’ insults cost her $17,000 in fines. 

While Williams’ behavior on the court during the finals is not something to commend, how she is transforming the incident to bring to light the issue of sexism in the game of tennis is something to be admired. Williams has explained that she has seen a number of professional male tennis players act in much cruder ways and argues the umpire’s calls during her finals match was an act of sexism.

“(Ramos) has never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief,’” Williams said in an interview with CNN. “For me it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women.”

CNN also referenced a tweet from Billie Jean King, a female tennis legend, following Williams’ behavior during the finals.

“When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it.” King tweeted. “When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken,’ and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same”

Although I believe Williams was initially throwing a tantrum out of frustration which is beyond inappropriate, it is admirable how openly Williams is using the incident to raise awareness about the discrepancies between men and women’s tennis. Williams’ outburst has brought a much larger issue of sexism in the sport to light.

William’s behavior during the U.S. Open finals was mortifying. No grown woman should need to be issued nearly $20,000 in fines to stop harassing an umpire. But Williams has been an inspiration to women for decades. From winning grand slams, to advocating for body positivity, speaking openly about her postpartum depression and campaigning for women’s healthcare, Williams truly is a champion for women everywhere.