By Dante Riccardi
The 2018 US Open that took place from August 27th to September 9th is an event that people will are going to be talking about for quite some time. While the entire tournament captivated audiences around the world, the match between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams was specifically legendary in its own unique way. Osaka, a younger unknown player, is currently playing in her fourth professional season and rising through the female tennis ranks, with 2018 marking her first appearance in a Grand Slam match. Her counterpart, Williams, is no stranger to big title games. For those who don’t follow sports, Serena Williams is considered one of the greats of her sport. In her twenty-three-year professional tennis career, Williams has become a highly decorated player who sits atop the female rankings each year, often being talked about as one of the greatest athletes of all time. These factors made the David and Goliath matchup one that many tennis fans were anticipating, for they wanted to see how Osaka would compare to Williams. However, once the match got underway, it became much more about Williams and the umpire, Carlos Ramos. In tennis, just like in many other sports, there are officials that determine points, penalties, and all other regulations of the game. Ramos is a well-known professional official that has been working for twenty-seven years and officiated his fair share of big time matches.
Early on in the match, Ramos penalized Williams for getting alleged coaching from the stands. In tennis, there is no communication allowed between the coaching staff and players in attempt to keep the game strictly between the two people on the court. Williams’s coach later admitted he was trying to give her some advice but said Serena never looked at him. He went on to say that every other coach in professional tennis does what he was doing, and that Williams should not have been penalized. After receiving the penalty, Williams started to show increased frustration towards the entire match. Her next penalty came when she smashed her racket into the court, which caused it to shatter into pieces. The impressive strength of Williams was not admired by Ramos, who then gave her another penalty, costing Williams a set. Ramos then called both players over to the chair to explain his ruling. After the conversation, Williams was infuriated with the call, saying that the match was not fair. However, instead of trying to cool down and reset her game play, she eventually received her third penalty for verbal abuse towards an umpire, which forced the game to end. Osaka went on to defeat Williams and win the Grand Slam event, which was unexpected by most viewers.
Despite the controversy that was occurring between the penalties given to Williams by Ramos after the match, it is still important to congratulate Naomi Osaka on her championship. No matter how the match went, Osaka seems to be receiving no credit for defeating Williams. Throughout the match, she outplayed Serena and showed that she deserves to be on the big stage. All her tremendous hard work finally paid off during this match, and that was something remarkable to see. As far as the officiating went, Ramos seemed to be a little harsh with his penalties. In a match as big as the US Open, there is a common saying that holds true, which is, “Let the players play”. What this really means is that it is important to not let any outside factors get in the way of the game or match, letting strictly the players determine who the real winner or loser is. Despite his credibility, Ramos dictated too much of the game and did not allow for fans to see how talented both players were. The coaching violation call he made seemed a little extreme, for of course coaches are going to try and help their players win one of the biggest games of the season. With the amount of time and effort that player and coach put in as a partnership throughout the year, who wouldn’t want to see their player succeed. Ramos should have given Williams a warning for this before he just simply took the points away. While Williams does have to be held accountable for slamming her racket, which was childish on her part, the penalty was extreme. This is a professional match with professional players and a lot on the line. To have something so juvenile as slamming your racket cost you an entire set seems a little ridiculous. If anything, Ramos should have noted Williams reaction and fined her accordingly after the game.
The most frustrating part of the match was when Ramos gave Williams a penalty for verbal abuse. As an umpire, it should be known that there is a lot at stake and that the players are performing with extreme emotion. It is the duty of the official to keep this in mind, especially when they come to you with any type of disagreement. While Williams did drag the argument on, Ramos should have been better prepared for this based on the previous penalties he awarded. Williams was obviously upset with the other two calls and was going to be more susceptible to showing her emotions. I understand she should have acted in a more professional manner but, with what was on the line, you must appreciate Williams competitive edge. It is also important to note Serena’s actions after the match, for she was extremely professional and gave all the credit to Osaka. She even grabbed the microphone at the closing ceremonies and spoke about how Naomi deserved to win. It takes a true professional to understand when they have been defeated.
Over the weeks following the match, other allegations of racism and sexism have come into play. Many people argue that Ramos was being unfair because Serena is a woman as well as because she is an African American. It is important to note that while these claims seem logical and realistic, this was not about Ramos disliking Serena Williams. Ramos has had a reputation of being a strict umpire and holding players accountable for their actions. With such a reputation at steak, there is a sense of power that forms and can cause the need to want to have total control. What was so disappointing about this year’s US Open was the referee trying to make the event about himself. No one paid their hard-earned money to go watch Carlos Ramos officiate the US Open. What they were paying for was to see the young and exciting Naomi Osaka take on Serena Williams, one of the greatest athletes, male or female, the world has ever seen. Over time, both Williams and Ramos will learn to let this match pass and their careers will go on accordingly. However, this one will linger a little longer than most.