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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tennis

Report: Tennis umpires considering boycott of Serena Williams matches

Serena Williams umpire

Tennis umpires are considering a boycott of Serena Williams matches out of fear for their jobs, according to a report.

The Times of London reported that tennis umpires are feeling unsupported following the fallout from Saturday’s US Open final between Williams and Naomi Osaka. Williams was called for three violations during a four-game span, resulting in a severe game penalty with the championship on the line in the second set.

Though all three were legitimate violations and called correctly according to the rule book, some feel that umpire Carlos Ramos did not need to assess the coaching violation and/or that he could have given Williams more leeway before assessing the third violation, which resulted in the harshest penalty. Williams defended herself multiple times following the violations being called, at times yelling at Ramos and demanding an apology. She later accused him of sexism for calling the third violation, which she believes never would have been called were she a man.

In the aftermath, the USTA (which puts on the US Open), and WTA, the women’s tour on which Williams plays, both issued statements in support of Williams. The ITF backed Ramos in a statement.

Umpires apparently now fear becoming part of such a controversy — being publicly vilified for doing nothing more than their job and calling violations when they’re committed on the court. Not being supported — and worse — being blamed, undermines the officials’ abilities to enforce the rule book and stand up to abuse from players.

A retired Gold Badge umpire told ESPN that any organized action from the umpires would be unlikely, but he said several umpires nonetheless feel abandoned and unsupported.

Juan Martin del Potro cries after losing US Open final

Juan Martin del Potro

Juan Martin Del Potro was emotional after losing in the finals of the US Open on Sunday to Novak Djokovic.

The 29-year-old Argentine fell short against Djokovic, losing in straight sets 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. Reaching the finals marked del Potro’s best major finish since he won the US Open in 2009. He was seen crying on the court following the defeat and said it was for a simple reason — he was sad about losing.

Del Potro’s journey to reach the final likely played a role in his feelings. He missed 11 majors from 2013-2017 while dealing with wrist injuries. He overcame the injuries to win a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, as well as reach the semis of the US Open last year and semis of the French Open this year. He came his closest since 2009 to winning his second major but fell short, which likely left him extremely disappointed despite his accomplishment.

Fans attack Naomi Osaka’s Instagram page after controversial win

Naomi Osaka crying

One of the unfortunate side effects of Saturday’s controversial U.S. Open women’s final is 20-year-old Naomi Osaka’s first Grand Slam title being somewhat overshadowed by the events involving Serena Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

Williams was the crowd favorite at the U.S. Open, and there was definitely some disappointment to see her lose, especially the way she did. The game penalty assessed to her late in the match added fuel to those who felt she was robbed of a winnable match, and unfortunately, a number of fans took it out on Osaka’s Instagram comments.

It’s incredibly disappointing to see this, as it detracts from what was an outstanding performance by the 20-year-old. Many of these comments choose to ignore that one vital fact: Osaka was already winning when Williams was assessed the game penalty. She won the first set 6-2 in dominant fashion and was up a break when the game penalty was assessed, seemingly on her way to winning even without it as long as she held serve, and the game penalty came when Osaka would have been serving anyway.

Some will argue that, right or wrong, the umpire’s decisions were frustrating and distracting for Williams and helped lead to the break. Others will suggest she could have broken back during the set that ultimately was awarded to Osaka. Maybe so, but the reality of the situation was that Osaka was the better player on Saturday even before the umpiring controversy erupted. Ignoring that is unfair to her. The circumstances of the match are controversial, and understandably so. The fact that Osaka won it shouldn’t be.

Umpire Carlos Ramos has history of being stickler for violations

Carlos Ramos

Serena Williams may be right: a male player might get away with some things that a female player would not. Regardless of gender, the behavior she displayed during the US Open finals on Saturday merited penalties, and Williams should have known that she was especially likely to incur such penalties when dealing with umpire Carlos Ramos.

Ramos has been at the center of several violations matters the past few years. Many of the calls he made were against high-profile male players, and in most cases, the men complained about the calls. Another matter even involved Serena’s sister, Venus, who was warned over the same coaching signals issue for which Serena was called on Saturday.

Here’s a look at some of Ramos’ history:

(more…)

Watch: Naomi Osaka cries, unable to answer question after winning US Open

Naomi Osaka crying

Naomi Osaka was left in tears over the way her first grand slam title ended.

Osaka, 20, beat Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the finals of the US Open on Saturday, but the ending was marred by controversy. The controversy was so strong that it led to booing from the fans, all of which prevented Osaka from being able to enjoy the moment of her triumph.

She was seen crying while Williams received the runner-up trophy.

Osaka was also unable to answer the first question she received from ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi during the trophy presentation interview.

“I’m gonna sort of defer from your question, I’m sorry,” Osaka apologized. “I know that everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”

Osaka later was able to answer questions and said it was an honor to be able to face Serena, to whom she has looked up.

Patrick Mouratoglou admits to coaching Serena during finals

Patrick Mouratoglou admitted to coaching Serena Williams during the finals of the US Open, but he says it’s no different from what any other coach does.

Mouratoglou was interviewed by ESPN’s Pam Shriver after Williams lost the US Open finals to Naomi Osaka on Saturday and pointed out the selective enforcement of the coaching violation by chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

“I’m honest, I was coaching. I don’t think [Serena] looked at me, so that’s why she didn’t think I was (coaching). But I was, like 100 percent of the coaches on 100 percent of the matches. So we have to stop this hypocrite thing. “[Osaka’s coach] was coaching every point too.”

Mouratoglou then suggested tennis needs to change some of its code rules.

“Two rules are killing tennis. Not to allow a player to express their feelings is stupid. It’s not a big deal to break a racquet,” Mouratoglou said.

He pointed out how suspicious it was that he received a coaching violation, which he says was the first in his life.

“Not once in my life. Very strange to happen in a grand slam final,” he said.

Williams was hit with a first violation for Mouratoglou coaching her with a hand signal in the second set. She berated him afterwards and insisted she did not cheat. Then she was hit with a second violation for smashing a racquet after being broken. She received a penalty point for the second violation. She then yelled at the umpire and demanded an apology for the previous violation. Williams called Ramos a “thief” for stealing a point away and was hit with a third violation, this time for verbal abuse. That was the third violation, which took a game away.

She ended up losing 6-2, 6-4 to Osaka, marking the 20-year-old’s first grand slam win.

Whether or not there was selective, potentially ill-timed enforcement of rules, Williams still had the ability to control things after receiving the first warning. Rather than composing herself and playing better, she got worse, continued to blame the umpire, and dug herself a bigger hole. That is on her, not the umpire.

Serena Williams furious after being assessed game and point penalties

Serena Williams umpire

Serena Williams was furious with chair umpire Carlos Ramos after being assessed a penalty point and later game during the second set of her match against Naomi Osaka in the US Open finals on Saturday.

Williams smashed her racquet after being broken by Osaka to make it 3-2 in the second set.

The violation for smashing her racquet combined with her previous coaching violation meant that Williams was assessed a penalty point. She learned of the penalty when Osaka went to serve down 2-3 in the second set and the score was announced as 15-0. Williams was furious about being hit with a penalty point and went off on Ramos:

Williams then insisted to Ramos that she didn’t receive coaching earlier in the match and demanded an apology. Her yelling at Ramos did not help. Ramos did not change his mind, while Williams was clearly rattled and lost her focus. Osaka held serve at love and then broke Williams on her serve to take a 4-3 lead in the second set.

Serena continued to berate Ramos during the side change and was hit with a third violation for verbal abuse, which made it a game penalty and turned the score to 5-3. She called him a “thief” for stealing a point away.

Osaka went on to win the set 6-4 and capture the match for her first grand slam title. Williams meanwhile accused Ramos of sexism for penalizing her for her verbal abuse, saying male players get away with so much worse.