Serena Williams lost it in the final of the women’s tournament at the US Open. She went ballistic when the umpire docked her a point for “coaching.” But, the problem was that the coaching was done by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, sitting in the stands, not by her. This is a justified reason for a violation being adjudicated, and indeed not only did Patrick later admit to the coaching infringement, but it was captured on TV. However, we do not know if Serena saw his hand motions urging her to go forward, and if she did not that might explain why she was so upset about losing a point. But, she over-reacted, she went towards the umpire Carlos Ramos and screamed on live TV before millions of watchers that “I am not a cheat and I would rather lose than cheat.” That may be so, but the umpire wasn’t accusing her of cheating, he was accusing her coach of coaching.
Soon after, Serena lost an advantage over her opponent Naomi Osaka of Japan, a 20 year old in her first Grand Slam final, while Serena has won 23 such finals before. Instead of accepting this loss as usual, Serena smashed her racket to pieces. This was certainly unprofessional conduct and she was docked a further point by the umpire for “racket abuse,” which is a definite violation of the code of conduct. Once again Serena over-reacted, she unleashed a torrent of abuse at the umpire, calling him a “thief” for taking her points and insisting that he owed her an apology. By, the way, this was in the middle of the second set and let’s be clear Serena was already losing without these reductions to her score. This diatribe went on for several minutes, during which she told the umpire to shut up and in some way threatened him. As a result the umpire docked her a whole game for umpire abuse, which was totally justified in view of her appalling behaviour.
At this point she started crying and screaming and shouting almost incoherently, and she called for tournament officials to come and help her. Note that this is in fact the fourth time that Serena has acted in this way. Two people came on court, a man and a woman, they remonstrated with her, they told her they could not change the judgements, which she accepted, and they tried to persuade her to stop her outburst and finish the match. After some time she calmed down somewhat and did finish the match, which she lost 6-2 6-4.
What further aggravated the whole thing was that of course during the award ceremony she had to justify herself, she not only attacked the umpire, but framed the whole incident as a case of sexism, she asserted that a man would not have been treated in this way, and she asked for support for her “cause,” a typical case of “political correctness.” Meanwhile poor Naomi Osaka was also crying, in effect Serena upstaged the winner and took all the attention onto herself and totally disrupted this important tennis match.
I have watched professional tennis for many years and this was the most disgraceful scene I have ever witnessed on a tennis court (including the outbursts of John McEnroe). In my opinion, Serena was acting like a spoiled brat, thinking that by force of her personality and status she could overcome the umpire, and she took the attention of the public away from the match that she was losing onto her own personal histrionics. Maybe she was overly emotional because she is a recent mother, but she has played in so many matches that she knows this kind of behavior is unacceptable. I am glad the tennis authorities have fined her $17,000. But, this is a trifle compared to the m$1.85 she won as the runner-up, and anyway she is a multi-millionaire. Above all she did a great dis-service to the game of tennis and spoiled Naomi Osaka’s excellent win, and I hope she retires as soon as possible, if not immediately.