Anne Keothavong, the Great Britain’s Fed Cup captain says, Serena Williams “let herself down” in the US Open final and her three code violations were not the “best example of sexism in sport”.
On Saturday, the American was docked a game in the second set of her defeat against Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows as she called umpire Carlos Ramos a “thief”. Williams claimed the penalty was a “sexist remark”. However, Keothavong believes Williams should have better controlled her emotions.
Keothavong said: “So many people look up to Serena Wiliams, and she is an iconic figure. I guess when we look up to our heroes, we expect the very best from them at all times but she is human. She is passionate about what she does out there. She does have a temper, she is not the only one, but you have just got to know as a professional athlete with all eyes on you on the biggest stage, you have to know when to stop.
“Make your point, shout, and scream, whatever and get the code violation but then know when to stop and get on with it. With the very best athletes, they do know and she just let herself down in that particular match. But in other matches, she has been able to turn it around.
“I am all for female athletes expressing themselves out there – I want to see it more with the younger players who I coach – and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that but you have also got to know when to draw a line.”
She added: “There are other examples of sexism in sport whether it comes down to prize money, the way male players are treated in comparison to women. I think that is a bigger issue than what actually happened on Saturday night in that US Open final. I don’t think that was the best example of sexism in sport in tennis.”
Williams was defended by Billie Jean King. According to Jean women are seen as “hysterical” when emotional while men are seen as “outspoken”, but Keothavong insists Ramos, who received the backing of the International Tennis Federation on Monday, was “doing his job”.
Keothavong said: “Yes, that is a valid point and I think sexism in tennis and across sport is also a valid point. It exists, let’s not beat around the bush about it. But in this particular case, Carlos Ramos was doing his job. He is a strong umpire, respected by a lot of players, coaches and other umpires.
“He is a guy that all the other umpires look up to because he is strong, consistently strong. Whether he is umpiring a men’s match or a women’s match, I think he treats [the players] as individuals equally. It has sparked an interesting debate.”
“Whoever watched that match that night, you feel for Naomi Osaka. She is going for her first Grand Slam title, grew up in New York, that was her moment. She worked so hard for it her whole life. She has been dedicated to tennis – she deserved her moment and unfortunately she didn’t get it and everything has been overshadowed by Serena’s behaviour.”
“It is interesting on social media everyone has come out in support of Naomi Osaka and what a great achievement it is – [her] first Grand Slam title. A lot of players are happy for her. Let’s not forget the type of tennis she played that night. She played incredible tennis; regardless of how Serena behaved, maybe Naomi Osaka would have won that match anyway.
“There has been a lot of support there but it has been interesting on social media anyway that not many players have spoken in support of Serena. That for me has been really noticeable.”
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