Serena’s Surprise

So, what did you think of the women’s final at the US Open?  Was Serena right or wrong in her vociferous complaints of how she was treated?

What Happened…

As a backdrop to the whole controversy, 20-year old Japanese-American Naomi Osaka was playing a wonderful match … and could have possibly won it without any of the subsequent events.

  • Coaching Violation – Serena’s coach was caught coaching her and telling her to come forward to the net. She complained loudly to the chair umpire, “I never cheat.”  But her coach admitted in a post match interview that he WAS coaching and “that everybody did it.”  So, she lied.
  • Code Violation – After a particular poor game, she smashed her racquet and got a code violation, which as #2 meant loss of point. She was “unaware” that those two actions were related and went back to complaining about the first violation for coaching/cheating.
  • Code Violation #3 – Toward the end of the set (Osaka serving up a break at 4-3), Serena continued to berate the chair umpire and said “You stole a point from me. You are a thief!”  He called her for a code violation, which was now loss of game.

Serena then called for the tournament referee to come out and complained loudly to him that she was penalized “because she was a woman” and men say worse things.  The Referee upheld the penalties.  To Serena’s credit (or Osaka’s disadvantage for having to wait around … like John McEnroe’s opponents used to have to) she held serve; but lost the next game and the match.

She was also very gracious to young Naomi after the match and on the podium.

I confess … I do not care for how Serena acts and was happy with the outcome – even though I don’t think the third penalty was really worth it.

So, what do YOU think … all is fair or was she robbed?

Different Balls

On a lighter note … During the US Open Mixed Doubles finals (won by America’s Bethany Mattick-Sands and Jaime Murray), TV commentator Renae Stubbs was discussing the fact that there are different tennis balls used for the men and women.  And she said …

“One match, I had to play with the men’s balls; and the next day, boy was my arm tired!”  🙂

Know someone who should read this?  Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at GeorgeWachtel@gmail.com

My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to Amazon.com, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!

36 thoughts on “Serena’s Surprise

  1. George I watched the whole match and Serena was outplayed whether she liked it or not Naomi was going to win
    Her behavior was not unlike it was a few years ago against Stoser
    I know all coaches coach but he got caught and rules are rules man or woman
    She tried to play the ace saying I am a mother!!!
    Give me a break!!!!

  2. I would have liked to see the chair issue a stern warning first before calling a game penalty! I think that makes sense seeing that this is the women’s final of a grand slam!

  3. If all coaches coach doing the match, why make an issue of it in a major final? Without this seldom cited violation, I doubt if violation #2 and #3 would have taken place. She may not have won the match anyway, but as a fan of tennis, it feels as if she was cheated of the chance to win.

  4. I agree with how things were handled EXCEPT that I didn’t think that being called a thief warranted a game penalty. Her coach did coach and the fact that everyone does it is similar to her being called for a foot fault in 2009. Either it is a violation or it isn’t, but when you decide to make the call has a huge impact on the match. I feel the umpire needed to allow her time to vent and blow off steam because as we all know, when a player goes off on a rant, they will usually calm down after venting (been there and done that from both the player on court and the chair umpire. ) I have to admit that I was rooting hard for Osaka after that. The angry reaction of the crowd brought back memories of the US Open Nastase-McEnroe match on August 31, 1979 which I was at. I begged my friend to get me tickets because that match was going to erupt at some point.

  5. Serena is still Serena, so it made it easy to root against her. I really don’t want her to surpass Steffi Graf, whose behavior and demeanor were impeccable.
    However, I loved her behavior at the festivities and interviews, and particularly liked her comments contra coaching in tennis. As always, I think tennis should keep its uniqueness in having the players play with whatever problem-solving skills they bring to the match.

  6. Christine I don’t think it’s fair to say that the majority of the people that use this blog are not fans of Serena’s
    The majority are Americans and they are definitely Serena fans
    I am from the UK and like to think I am a liberal and am very open minded
    Rules are rules I play by the rules and expect everyone else to do so

  7. I have the perspective coming from basketball that any of the infractions
    would have you in the showers early. Try screaming at a basketball ref and then calling him a thief and see what happens!!
    I love tennis and have played since I was twelve but sometimes I just scratch my
    head????

  8. serena used to my favorite for most of her career. however, she really
    has become a Diva. now, i do not root for her. i felt badly that naomi
    osaka”s moment was ruined.
    i did think that serena pulled it together during the ceremony to a
    degree, but, all of the attention should have been on the champion,
    not serena.

  9. Understand Serena’s frustrations. Personally felt the umpire had a job to do and he did it. Serena’s continued rage was her demise. Osaka played awesome and most likely was the underlying factor!

  10. Dad … read this post and by the way you wrote it thought SW has won (read it twice). Thought both times she must have been lucky to still win after 3 violations and felt happy about her tying the record.

    Then read she lost on ESPN. Now I feel completely at odds about it without having seen any of it on tv.

    In the end the coaching bothers me (since it is the rule, but a dumb one) and getting after the umpire is worse. But at then end of the day it appears she would have lost anyway.

    I always rooted for Conners over McEnroe so I guess it’s the same for this match for me. “Shut up and play your game” it’s your own fault you lost.

    Jeremy, just like with bad line calls… it is not the call, but how you deal with it that affects the outcome. Thanks,

  11. I’m torn on this one. Serena’s coach admitted the violation, even though I don’t believe Serena recognized it. Smashing her racquet and ranting against the chair umpire was uncalled for, but I do believe he should have issued another warning before taking the game. The “I’m a mother” defense was also uncalled for. The real shame is that Naomi was the victim here, even though she outplayed Serena.

  12. Many players get a “code violation” and are then a little more careful. If Serena had not broken her racket, we wouldn’t be talking about the coaching violation and she never would have received the third violation. Her coach said after the match that he didn’t think breaking a racket should be a violation. It is just showing emotions. I disagree.

  13. Yes, her coach confirmed he tried to coach and that is enough. I agree that Naomi would have won anyway. Serena’s complaint with the umpire was unruly and to call him a “thief” was for sure a 3rd violation. Congratulation to a new nice face in tennis “NAOMI”!
    It is known all over, even in High School, that the first warning is a “warning” the second is a point, the third an right so, is a game, the fourth one would have been a set. I coached many years juniors and high school and they all know that.

    Congratulations to Naomi, who won straight and square, too bad those New Yorkers booed her win! She showed with her game that she was a deserving champion!

    Rolf Jaeger

  14. Serena was wrong, but: 1). Calling someone a thief and demanding an apology, even if it sounded like a tirade, do not constitute verbal abuse. 2). The chair umpire should have first warned Serena she risked a game penalty if she kept talking instead of pulling the plug with no warning; it IS the US Open final after all and he should have realized the widespread disruption this would create, which predictably has occurred. 3). While not an excuse, I have said before that EVERYONE coaches and it is utterly ridiculous that a rule against it persists. Tennis needs to accept reality and conform the game to the present reality instead of insisting on enforcing a rule that nobody follows and that, therefore, becomes completely arbitrary on the rare occasions that it is enforced. (By analogy, this is not unlike the senseless adherence to “shamateurism” in the pre open era. If everybody is already violating a rule, then it is the rule that needs fixing – NOT more rigid enforcement of a rule that no longer makes sense.). 4). The person who suffers the most is Naomi Osaka who would have won regardless of the Serena fiasco and the chair umpire’s lack of patience and good judgment. Now Naomi’s great victory will forever have a Roger Maris asterisk attached to it, and that is a shame. She does not deserve this.

  15. Serena Williams is a fan favorite all over the world and especially in New York. She is certainly one of the best women to ever play the game. Lets make one point very clear
    though she has always had an attitude. Remember a few years back when she threatened a lines lady with f bombs. Her penalty was a slap on the wrist. $ 10,000 fine.
    Last night she got a warning for being coached which her coach admitted. She did not get a warning for cheating. She got a little crazy saying she is not a cheater, she is a mother and would not cheat. The next game she loses her serve and is so upset breaks her racquet. Violation number two point penalty. During the change instead of regrouping with two violations she continues to berate the umpire that she is not a cheater and he owes her an apology. She would not stop and then not only does he owe her an apology but he is a thief and stole a point and game from her. I do think the well respected official Carlos Ramos should have made announcements for each violation as they happened so it was clear to both players and the crowd. Naomi Osaka outplayed her in all aspects but is the one that was really cheated. She didn’t get any glory for her magnificent tournament and championship. Serena did show a little class when she asked the people to stop booing but not when she hugged Naomi and said we will get through this?? This time was not for Naomi to be bowing her head never smiling but for joy and jubilation as she just won the U.S. Open!! Very sad.

  16. Serena Williams is a great tennis player, hardly a great champion or role model. Imagine, if possible, how Roger Federer would have conducted himself during this saga from the first violation through the ceremony.

  17. Serena’s accomplishments on the Tennis court are astounding. The coaching code violation will always be debatable. With that being said, she showed her true self centeredness “again”, and in her own world of frustrations, ruined the show. Her agent should be calling Ryan Seacrest in hopes of finding a drama filled “Kardashian type” TV special. Wasn’t that what the New York based crowd was really cheering/booing for?

    Expanding upon what Mr. Atkinson previously posted, what if:
    LeBron James enters that type of tirade with game officials? Renaldo…? Tom Brady…? Ovechkin…? Bryce Harper…?
    Obviously, ejection, suspensions, fines….Pour it onto Diva Serena…the Game is far bigger than one player!

  18. Ahhhh, I agree ‘word for word’ what Marty Judge just wrote. Also, I know we have a wonderful new champion on the tennis scene! Naomi Osaka!!! She played an almost flawless match & would have won even without the terrible emotional upset which was caused 100% by the umpire. Yes, a warning first. Her coach, Patrick, did send her signals which she didn’t see…but SHE was penalized. Really?! With all of the bad behavior of some of the men & their signaling coaches?! I admire Serena …she’s not my favorite player, but she is an amazing competitor and should have been shown more respect by the umpire. None of this would have happened were it not for him. Osaka deserved a bigger victory celebration in the end… with her humble grace, and delightful personality. I know they’ll be talking about this all day today….jeez, maybe it’s time for this rule discussion. Obviously, the ‘elephant in the room’ for quite sometime. p.s. I liked that the umpire was not present, nor honored at the award presentation. Don’t think THAT has ever happened!

    Caroline, i pointed out to DeDe that they always recognize the chair umpire in the closing ceremony and did not this time! “100% caused by the umpire”? I think not. thanks, george

  19. “All is fair or was she robbed?” I believe all is fair. The issue here is not whether coaching should be allowed or the subjectivity of officials in enforcing rules and penalizing players in accordingly. This isn’t unique to tennis. NBA players travel (carry the ball) all the time and aren’t called for it most of the time, but occasionally the rule is enforced. Likewise, NFL defensive players interfere with pass receivers, NHL players rough, high stick, trip, etc, MLB pitchers slick up baseballs with sweat, hair gel, and who knows whatever. Sometimes the rules are enforced and sometimes they aren’t, due to subjectivity of officials. Just a few examples.

    Osaka was well on her way to victory. The warning for coaching wasn’t going to affect the outcome. Osaka maintained her composure and continued to bring it. Serena knew her opponent had her number. She envisioned Osaka hoisting the trophy so she stirred it up, her motive being to have an excuse for what she knew was her imminent defeat. She was the thief here. She stole the moment and glory of victory from Osaka.

  20. By getting into an e-peen contest Carlos Ramos cheated everyone yesterday…Serena, the fans and most importantly, Naomi Osaka. His ego should have taken second place given what was at stake and his job was to diffuse the situation not throw kerosene on it. He should have firmly warned Serena that if there were any further outbursts he would have no recourse other than assessing a game penalty.

    It might not have changed the outcome but Serena has come back from far more dire situations…unfortunately we will never know. I had an opportunity to attend for $500…I’m so glad I passed.

  21. Give me a break — Serena knew exactly what was going on with the violations. She thinks she is above the rules. In my opinion , she should have been defaulted before the last outburst . Now that would have created a discussion.
    Too bad when you are getting your ” lunch ” served , a champion can’t be more gracious . Not after , but during the match . Just saying …

  22. I realize now that one of the prime benefits of my website is to allow all of us to VENT (and save our relationships with spouses and friends!). 🙂

  23. George, to the benefit of allowing all of us to vent, I’ll add the clarity that one gets from taking thoughts and committing them to written words. Here goes my attempt:
    Serena is a polarizing figure in tennis similar to John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in their heyday combining unique and awe inspiring tennis talent with boorish behavior too often. Let us hope Serena can age well like the public John McEnroe after her tour career closes.
    I am not a Serena fan for many reasons but primarily for the over aggressive style of play that produces so many unforced errors to go along with demoralizingly overpowering winners. I prefer that she would have incorporated more of the late Agassi style that Brad Gilbert helped with developing of hitting with more margin of error but still very forcing. If she was not so aggressive, she may have lost less matches but at a cost of more time on the court, more wear on her body. Perhaps, she is having a much longer and financially much more rewarding career because she played so aggressively (and to my mind arrogantly). The mindset to conduct herself like that reminds me of another extremely well known public figure. The common denominator is best defense (only defense?) is a good offense and NEVER say I am sorry, I was wrong.
    Unpleasant characteristics to view but potentially a big reason for such success.
    There, that is as fair as I can be and thanks again George for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts.

  24. I agree with most of what has already been said, so will not reiterate. I will also assume that most of your readers are part of the “Senior Tennis” generation, so I think you will all relate to my comments. The first time I walked onto a tennis court, before ever hitting a ball, my coach gave us a lecture on tennis etiquette. I’m guessing we all received that lecture at some point, but I don’t think too many players hear it these days. It’s not that we didn’t have our share of bad actors, as already pointed out, so it didn’t start with Serena, but she is certainly a prime example. Too bad she didn’t grow more mature, as Venus has.

  25. There are so many issues and losers in this that you feel like why comment. But this is the one place I will.

    Serena’s coach says he was coaching her. I seriously doubt it was the first time. The issue is they feel that all teams do it and therefore it is not cheating. It was called and the coach handled it honorably and the player less than honorably.

    In my opinion the US OPEN treated the umpire and the opponent worse than they should have and Serena better than they should have at the ceremony.

    Our sport lost more than it gained in this Grand Slam final.

    Lastly, I honestly believe 99.999% of professional tennis players would have handled this much better than Serena did.

  26. Well, George, it appears that this column has brought more responses than any I can remember.
    I am here to support Serena, and to raise some ugly questions.
    Two weeks after Arethra Franklin dies, another black woman from a poor background, with a career of unparalleled accomplishment, is asking, very politely, for R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
    Coaching is against the rules, and therefore, to be penalized for using it is an accusation of cheating. Ramos could have completely mollified her, I believe, if he had said “Ms. Williams, I saw coaching and I am obligated to call it. I know you are not a cheater.” He had several opportunities to consider how to defuse the situation, as also noted above, or give a Kyrgios “pep-talk”. If his name is now widely known, he has failed to be the best umpire he could have been that day.
    I am guessing with near certainty that none of the replies above have come from black women who have had a lifetime of disparagement, and it disturbs me to see words like “arrogant” used. Or “aggressive”, which virtually every player in the runway interview before or after a match announces how they plan to play.
    The number of respondents who have stated that they are not “Serena” fans despite her American background, success, longevity and documented role as friend and mentor to many women on the tour (see Caroline Wozniacki) seems disturbing, and double or triple standards might be at play.
    Have YOU excused more boorish behavior from men (“Just Manny being Manny!”) or white men (have Patriot fans abandoned Tom over “deflategate” or Bill over “spygate”?)?
    Although if you want to hate the Yankees, I hoist a beer with you.

  27. George,
    Full disclosure: I am a proud Haitian-American,and have been following Naomi ‘s career for a long time. Her father Leonard Francois is Haitian and her mother Japanese. Naomi was born in Japan and was three years old when she moved to Long Island NY ,with her parents. So, technically she is Haitian-Japanese, reared in the USA.
    Now my opinion:
    1. What no one mentioned is that the umpire never called Serena a cheat. She was obstinate in insisting he did. He did not. The violation was called on her coach Patrick not her. Patrick admitted he did. If she was not in his face demanding and apology this would have been just a minor incident.
    2. If she did not see Patrick telling her to move to the net, how do you explain her winning the next two points volleying at the net? Coincidence?
    3. The simple truth is that she was outplayed by Naomi and lost it. So, let us not start making excuses for Serena or blaming the umpire who was doing his job. What she did was ugly and she managed to spoil it for Naomi. Period.

  28. So that the sexism card isn’t played too long, here it is by the numbers for this year’s Open:

    Code Violations: Men 26, Women 10
    The above includes racquet abuse: Men 14, Women 5
    Audible obscenity: Men 3, Women 3
    Time delays: Men 5, Women 0 (The women didn’t have a serve clock)
    Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Men 4, Women 1
    On-court Coaching: Men 0, Women 2 (Serena and Cibulkova)
    Verbal Abuse: Men 0, Women 1 (Serena)

    Clearly, the coaching issue needs to be addressed, but claims of sexism are not borne out by these statistics.

    Jim, good perspective! Thanks, george

  29. I love Serena and all she has done for the sport.

    But, she lost control and brought this all on herself. She has been fined and acted poorly before and deserved what happened to her. I never liked Connors or McEnroe’s actions either. Tennis has evolved since then and should not tolerate bad behavior.

    Swear words or not- she went on for over 14 minutes attacking the referee. I would rather a player swear and get it off their chest in one minute (the usual) than to see the complaints after the first, second and third code violations disrupt the match for the fans and especially the other player. Clearly she did this to get Naomi off track or to pump herself up – wrong actions.

    She lost her reason and temper. Then blames it on anti-woman reasons and other excuses – instead of pointing to herself. All these media people are crazy not to call her out on this too.

    It was an episode that was shameful to this great Sport, the fans and especially to Naomi.

    Bring on the Horse’s Ass Award or D-Head or P-head award!

  30. Congatulations to Martina and Mary …
    Martina Navratilova said, “I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of ‘If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.’ Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”
    Navratilova’s comments were backed by longtime player-turned-broadcaster Mary Carillo. “At her very best — and she is very often at her very best — I respect and admire Serena beyond measure,” Carillo told MSNBC on Monday. “…But at her very worst, as she was on [Saturday] night, she acts like a bully.”

  31. Here is an update to my earlier post comparing code violations of men v. women. But first, one correction. Code violation is the broad category, with all of the others adding up to that total. In other words, from the earlier post, the total code violations were Men 26, and Women 10, with the sum of the other categories totaling those amounts.

    The data for all four slams this year are:
    Total Code Violations: Men 85, Women 43
    Racquet Abuse: Men 33, Women 10
    Audible Obscenity: Men 16, Women 10
    Time Delays: Men 7, Women 3
    Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Men 16, Women 5
    On-court Coaching: Men 9, Women 13 *
    Verbal Abuse: Men 2, Women 1
    First Round Retirement: Men 2, Women 0 **
    Media Conference: Men 0, Women 1

    * Coaching is allowed on the WTA tour but not in the slams.
    ** The ATP tour is trying to prevent injured players from showing up for first round matches, retiring, and then collecting their paycheck. The WTA does not have this rule.

    The data appear to be consistent among all the slams.

    I have been reading a lot of posts complaining that women are being held to a different standard than men, with old videos of McEnroe popping up. First, the behavior of McEnroe, Connors, Nastase, etc., led to these rules being put in place. Are the women really arguing that they should be allowed to behave like those juveniles did in the 70’s and 80’s? I think they should be flattered that they are deemed worthy of the higher expectations. The real issue is that they know the rules and how they are enforced in their matches. And now we see that the men, in fact, are penalized at a higher rate, even when adjusted for the greater number of sets played.

    My apologies for boring you with the facts.

    Jim, thanks for the facts … and see the Mary and Martina comments above. george

  32. There is a thread running through all of this – it’s about respect – for the occasion, ie the Final watched by a packed stadium & by millions of people around the world, for your opponent, for the umpire & the other officials, for your own place in tennis history, for your family, & for your sport. She’s a fighter with a ruthless determination but unlike Venus she has never learnt to exercise self control, that’s her problem. Calling the umpire a liar & a thief should be enough to end the match right there no matter what. Henman was disqualified at Wimbledon when he accidentally hit a ballgirl, as was Shapovalov in a Davis Cup tie when he accidentally hit the umpire, both correct decisions, out you must go straightaway, end of, no discussion needed. We want gladiators but there is a line which mustn’t be crossed, ever. She should swallow her exaggerated pride & apologise, then move on to the Aussie Open & have some fun. It’s only a game !

  33. One last thought to add to this discussion … Serena’s coach, Patrick, readily admitted to giving hand-signal coaching (whether Serena saw it or not), so, who pays that $17,000 penalty?! Another thing to ponder, does anyone remember all the names of the Miss America winners???…I thought not. However, I bet you remember Vanessa Williams, right?! … thought so. Point being, I’m sure none of us will forget the Women’s Finals, 2018 (for good or naught)! Thanx, George, for your “Venting Space!”

    Caroline, the $17,000 was just deducted from the $1,900,000 Serena received. Did she even notice it? Thanks. George

  34. Whew! What response!!!

    I think I have the about the same assessment as George expressed. I wonder if the code violations were clearly, deliberately communicated to Serena, and would like to believe that the umpire is competent, and trained to do just that. I did not hear them clearly – and understood only after explanation by the TV commentators – but the umpire was not addressing the viewers, but Serena. The crowd noise and the intensity and duration of Serena’s protest both present real challenges to clear and explicit explanation of the situation. As for the match, don’t most think that Naomi simply outplayed Serena? Can Serena step up her game? Can she put this behind her and bring herself to play at her best? Or, did this match represent her best – as a 37-year old mother and wife? Has she fully rehabilitated after her difficult birth?

Comments are closed.