The debate on sexism in tennis has forever lingered around the sport like a bad smell. But at the recently-concluded US Open, the issue ignited. First, after French tennis ace Alize Cornet was admonished by the chair umpire for changing her shirt during a US Open match, a practice male tennis players usually indulge in match-after-match.
But after former World No 1 Serena Williams, playing against Japan’s Naomi Osaka in the US Open women’s singles final, alleged that chair umpire Carlos Ramos’ actions in censuring her had been sexist, the noise around the issue turned into a crescendo.
Williams was handed three code violations during her 2-6, 4-6 defeat to Osaka by Ramos on Saturday: the first, for getting coaching signals from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou; the second, for smashing her racket, which cost her a point; and the last one, for calling the chair umpire a ‘thief’, which cost her a game.
Furious at having been handed the three code violations, Williams told the tournament referee Brian Earley: “Because you’re a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?
“There’s a lot of men out here that have said a lot of things and because they are men, that doesn’t happen.”
At the press conference following her defeat, the American added: “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’.
“For me, it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women.”
Williams comments were backed by the legendary Billie Jean King besides players like Victoria Azarenka.
Here’s a look at some of the most notable meltdowns by men’s singles players over the years:
Viktor Troicki, 2016 Wimbledon
At the 2016 Wimbledon, Viktor Troicki, the then World No 27, was so incensed by Italian umpire Damiano Torella awarding an ace to his opponent, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, that he snatched the ball out of the hands of a ball boy and then marched over to the net to confront the chair umpire. He screamed, “Come on, please look at it, please. Look at it.”
The Serbian then smacked the ball out of the court and shouted: “You’re the worst umpire in the world. What are you doing? Did you see the ball? You’re so bad.”
His anger didn’t just end there. When Troicki lost the match, he refused to shake Torella’s hand before shouting, “Do you know what you did? You’re horrible. What are you doing? What are you doing? Tell me what are you doing? What are you doing there? You’re the worst ever. Do you know what you did? You’re an idiot.”
PUNISHMENT: He was fined £7,500, but docked no points during the game. For context, Williams was fined £13,100 for her behaviour in the 2018 US Open final.
Marcos Baghdatis, 2012 Australian Open
The temperamental tennis ace was so livid after going down a break in the third set, that he started smashing his racquet on the court during a changeover. Having completely destroyed the racquet, he calmly handed the mangled mess to a ball boy before proceeding to smash three more racquets.
The Cypriot, who was already two sets down at that point, crashed out in that match, losing 7-6(3), 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 to Stanislas Wawrinka.
PUNISHMENT: He was fined $800, or as a website pointed out an amount lesser than what it would take him to replace his four broken racquets.
Roger Federer, 2009 US Open
The usually composed Roger Federer lost his cool during the 2009 US Open final against Juan Martin Del Potro. And how!
With the match level at one set all, and four-four in the third set, the Argentine hit a shot which was deemed to be out. He took his time before challenging the call. This triggered an uncharacteristic rant from Federer.
"Don't you have any rules for this? I wasn't allowed to challenge after two seconds. The guy takes, like, 10. You can't allow that stuff to happen," Federer snapped at chair umpire Jake Garner. When the umpire asked the Swiss ace to keep his calm, the then World No 1 retorted: “Don't tell me to be quiet, OK? When I want to talk, I talk. I don't give a s*** what he said.”
The match ended 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in favour of the Argentine.
PUNISHMENT: He was fined $1,500, but earned no reprimand during the match. Interestingly, Williams was docked $10,000 just days before this incident for an argument with a line judge during her semi-final clash against Kim Clijsters. Williams had snapped after being called for a foot fault, and had abused the official, for which chair umpire Louise Engzell handed the American a penalty point for a code violation. This point had handed the semi-final to Clijsters. Williams was also slapped with a $500 fine for racket abuse in the same clash.
Roger Federer, 2018 Australian Open
Facing Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, Federer had another episode where he let his anger boil over.
This time, the cause for Federer’s ire was when he called for a challenge but the review failed to appear on the screen. Berdych, who was already leading 5-3, was given the point with the chair umpire Fergus Murphy informing the players and the fans at the Rod Laver Arena that the ball was in fact in. This led to remarking, “… but you can't steal my challenge now. You feel comfortable doing this? I'm just asking you if you feel comfortable doing this? You feel comfortable, you're ok with it?
"It's your call. You can say 'ok, he's already been screwed over once'," Federer said.
PUNISHMENT: Federer was not fined for that outburst
Updated Date: Sep 11, 2018 20:52 PM