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Serena Williams accuses umpire of sexism after court outburst at US Open final

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Anna Brech
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Some labelled it a “meltdown”, but Serena Williams is backed by other tennis players as she calls sexism after her US Open women’s final descended into a series of rows with the umpire

Serena Williams hit out at the “sexist” behaviour of an umpire after a tense showdown at the US Open final yesterday saw her concede the Grand Slam title to Japan’s Naomi Osaka.

Official Carlos Ramos gave the 23-time champion a code violation for verbal abuse when she called him a thief for taking a point away from her. 

“I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things,” Williams said at a post-match press conference. “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’.

“I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that wants to express themselves, and wants to be a strong woman.”

Serena Williams argues her case with tournament referee Brian Early during the game

The US Open women’s final this weekend was overshadowed by a series of on-court rows that escalated throughout the match.

Williams was handed her first court violation for getting hand signals from her coach during the second set. Annoyed, she told umpire Ramos she would rather lose than cheat.

She then received another penalty for smashing her racket before the “thief” comment led to a game penalty, putting her opponent Osaka 5-3 ahead.

Williams remonstrated with tournament officials but when onto lose the match. 

The umpire’s decisions did not go down well with the crowd of mostly William fans, and for the first time ever, the trophy ceremony was drowned out by the sound of boos.

By the time Osaka stepped up to the podium to claim her maiden victory, both she and Williams were in tears. 

Williams comforts her opponent Naomi Osaka amid boos during the trophy ceremony

Osaka told the crowd, “I know everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this.” She later noted that Williams, her childhood idol, “was really nice to me” during the match and on the podium.

Williams acknowledged the situation was difficult for her opponent, telling the crowd: “This is her moment. Stop booing because she doesn’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it.”

“She [Osaka] played an amazing match. She deserved credit, she deserved to win,” she added during the post-match conference.

William’s stance over the sexist umpire was backed up by tennis players on Twitter, including US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka and 12-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King:

Williams vowed to change the perceived imbalance facing female players on-court, saying: “Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”

The World Tennis Association said it was looking into matters that took place during the match.

“Naomi is a deserving champion and Serena at all times plays with class and makes us proud,” a statement read. 

Update: Serena Williams has been fined $17,000 (around £13,000) for offences in the US Open Women’s Final. 

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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