4 months ago
The women’s US Open final on Saturday ended with both the winner and loser standing on the court in tears and the crowd booing loudly—and the blame for such an bizarre conclusion rests squarely on the fragile ego of chair umpire Carlos Ramos. That’s according to Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins, who excoriated Ramos for enforcing a dubious “coaching” penalty on Williams and then grossly overreacting when she got upset, docking her point. That, in turn, led to Williams calling Ramos a “thief,” which escalated into an unprecedented move for such a prestigious match, with Ramos docking a Williams a full game as a penalty. Such a surreal, over-the-top punishment, Jenkins argued, not only damaged Williams’ chance of a comeback—the 6-time US Open champion was trailing by just one game in the set—it forever tainted the eventual victory of new phenom Naomi Osaka, the first Japanese woman to ever win the Open.
“Williams abused her racket, but Ramos did something far uglier: He abused his authority,” Jenkins wrote. “Champions get heated—it’s their nature to burn. All good umpires in every sport understand that the heart of their job is to help temper the moment, to turn the dial down, not up, and to be quiet stewards of the event rather than to let their own temper play a role in determining the outcome. Instead, Ramos made himself the chief player in the women’s final.”
Jenkins claimed a gender double standard was at work as well. Male pro tennis players have a long track record of volcanic tempers, racket smashing, and NSFW language, she noted. And yet the likes of a John McEnroe—notorious for loudly swearing and insulting chair umpires—have never faced the kind of penalties that Ramos dished out to Williams on Saturday. In fact, Rafael Nadal had personally threatened Ramos in last year’s French Open, telling him during a match that he would never referee one of Nadal’s matches again after a disputed call. Ramos’ response: a minor warning.
“But he couldn’t take it. He wasn’t going to let a woman talk to him that way. A man, sure,” Jenkins wrote of Ramos’ dramatic, punitive response. “Ramos had rescued his ego and, in the act, taken something from Williams and Osaka that they can never get back.