What did this weekend’s events indicate about the state of the game of tennis?
We know for sure . . .
- Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open final to Naomi Osaka, and the umpire, Carlos Rosa, charged Williams with three code violations.
- The first violation came when Rosa spotted Williams’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, cheating by giving her signs with his hands. We know Mouratoglou cheated because the coach admitted it in a post-match interview.
- Williams vociferously asserted that she does not cheat and that it would be basically unthinkable for her to do so because she has a young daughter she’d like to raise properly.
- Williams called Rosa a “thief” at 3-4 in the second set. We all heard that on the TV broadcast. Coming on the heels of the point penalty she’d received for smashing a racquet earlier in the match, the umpire docked her a game in accordance with what he asserted was a violation of policy.
We don’t know for sure . . .
- If Williams utilized the coaching Mouratoglou tried to give her. She did come in to the net more after his gestures urged such a strategy, but Williams is also a savvy player who could certainly have thought to adopt those tactics on her own.
- What has gone on in private discussions between her and her coach. Williams said post-match, “We have never discussed signals,” implying she neither told him not to coach her with hand signals nor instructed him to do so.
- If Rosa were motivated by overt or underlying sexist tendencies to make the calls he did against Williams. Many, including Williams herself, have asserted that was the case and that women are treated differently than men by officials. But knowing what’s in a person’s mind is difficult. He could also have simply made a mistake (if you believe the calls were the wrong ones). Even if one believes tennis officials have demonstrated a pattern of behavior unfair to women, it doesn’t mean that sexist motivations existed in this particular case (it doesn’t mean they did not, either).