Photo courtesy of Getty images
Story by Anna-Jo Stuart, Reporter
On September 8, Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka met in a history making tennis match in the finals of the U.S. Open. Williams had the chance to tie the record for most Grand Slam titles, while Osaka became the first Japanese woman to win the title. Unfortunately, the events that took place during the match will be what is most remembered.
During the match Williams was given three penalties that arguably cost her the match. She was first penalized for coaching, resulting in a warning and a $4,000 fine. Williams was outraged by this penalty, telling the umpire that she would rather lose than cheat. Her temper escalated throughout the game, resulting in two more penalties. She received a point penalty for racket abuse that cost $3,000. The third game penalty was for umpire abuse, costing $10,000. She received this penalty after calling the umpire a thief for stealing a point from her.
After losing the match Williams said that her penalties were a result of sexism by the umpire. Male tennis players are permitted to behave worse than she did without punishment. Since the heated match many male players have come forward stating that they are able to get away with code violations and are even praised for it.
I believe that the umpire was right to penalize Williams for her code violation, rules are rules. I do think that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is sexist in how it enforces its codes. Women are expected to strictly adhere to the ITF codes, while men are often admired for protesting against the umpire or are allowed to break codes without punishment. Williams’s behavior is described as a “temper tantrum”, while equivalent behaviors by her male counterparts are seen as acts of “passion”. There are male players who quite famously have berated umpires without being punished. They even had commercials based off their emotional outbursts. The ITF needs to make a decision, is it going to allow both men and women to be more emotional on the court, or is it going to equally enforce the rules in both the male and female matches?
This is not the first time Williams has protested sexism in the professional world of tennis. She has become known for not only being one of the greatest tennis players ever, but also for being an advocate for women’s rights. She has previously challenged the inequity of prize money between female champions and male champions. She has proven that a woman can still be a competitor after childbirth. Finally, she has also challenged dress code policies. Through her actions, Williams is once again proving that sport organizations still have work to do when it comes to equality between the men and women who play them. Overall, the ITF needs to determine if all of its codes are ones it wants to enforce. If so, it needs to enforce them equally and acknowledge that women can become just as emotional as men when playing to win.