March 23, 2019

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Serena Williams Spotlights Tennis Inequities, but in the Best Way?

Serena Williams Spotlights Tennis Inequities, but in the Best Way?
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Williams, marching through this tournament, was hoping to win her first Grand Slam title after giving birth to her daughter last year. At 36, she is a woman who made it to the top of the sports world after growing up in Compton, Calif., and as an African-American has had to endure all sorts of abuse from opposing players, officials, executives and fans, and then even has to deal with blowback of her clothing choices. She wore a catsuit at the French Open this year, only for the tournament’s officials to ban it for the future because it “didn’t respect the game and the place.”

It must be hard to carry that burden as a role model for so many.

Let us not forget, though, that the biggest burden she probably faces is people always trying to beat her on the court, and across the net on Saturday was a formidable, frustrating opponent whom many see as a younger version of herself.

So instead of a match for the ages, the heralding of a young and deserving talent, it will probably be remembered for Williams’s calling the umpire a sexist liar and later saying her complaints were made for the equal rights of all women. But on closer examination, it’s also true that this umpire has been tough on top male players, too. The difference is that the men didn’t belabor their arguments with him.

Williams’s tirade wasn’t a pretty moment for a woman who is an icon for women, female athletes, African-Americans and working mothers. She’s so much better than the Serena Williams who showed up on Saturday.

“Had I behaved like that on a tennis court, I would have expected to get everything that happened to Serena,” said Martina Navratilova, who won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and a record nine Wimbledon titles, and has been a longtime advocate for equality in the sport. “ It should’ve ended right there with the point warning, but Serena just couldn’t let it go.”

She added, “She completely had the right message about women’s inequality, but it wasn’t the right time to bring it up.”

Ramos officiated with his usual exacting eye. He gave Williams a warning for receiving coaching in the second set. His action was warranted because Williams’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, admitted to coaching her.

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