This year’s US Open women’s tennis final was very disturbing.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka out played and defeated American super-star Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 to claim her first grand slam title.
That was a fantastic achievement for the mild-mannered 20-year-old.
The big story after the match, however, was the claim of sexism against the umpire made by the 23-time grand slam champion Osaka defeated.
Osaka broke Serena’s serve in the second set, then Williams broke her racquet by smashing it into the hard court of Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.
When the umpire followed the rules and penalised her a point, she confronted him at the chair.
With the microphone on for the tv audience and everyone in the stadium to hear, she accused Carlos Ramos of being a ‘thief’ and a ‘liar.’
Ramos then docked her a game for verbal abuse, a move Williams later described as sexist.
Her argument being men players on the professional tour get away with abusing umpires all the time without being penalised.
Unfortunately for Osaka, the American crowd rallied behind their national hero and booed for the remainder of the match and right into the award ceremony.
They were probably booing the umpire because they wanted Williams to win, but it sounded like they were booing the Japanese player.
It was the ugly side of needing to win and supporting a hometown player.
Serena was in the wrong and she tried to justify her abusive behaviour towards the umpire by pointing out that other players do it as well.
In this case she claimed men get away with more than women on the professional tennis tour, so she played the sexism card.
Her claim may be true; but even if it is, it doesn’t justify her behaviour.
No one should publicly talk to anyone the way she talked to Ramos; not on a tennis court, not on the streets, not anywhere.
And if a man got away with it in the past, it doesn’t mean another man or a woman should be able to get away with it now.
Having said that, Serena was playing in the US Open final and if she had won she would have tied the record for the most grand-slam singles titles held by Margarete Court, so she had to be feeling the pressure.
She is normally gracious on the rare occasions she loses, so I think we should cut her a break here.
I have to admit; sports competitions don’t always bring out the best in me.
My big problem with this year’s final, however, was the behaviour of the crowd… mainly because unlike Serena’s behaviour, I don’t see it as a one-off.
In pretty much all international competitions, crowds support home players regardless of how they play or behave, and they often support them with little regard for their opponents.
Serena has fought against racism and sexism in her sport and those battles have come from the high ground since everyone recognises those things as forms of prejudice.
But isn’t the expression of nationalism we saw at the US Open a form of prejudice as well?
Most people probably don’t see it that way, but I find that very disturbing.