During one of several intense exchanges with U.S. Open officials in her finals loss to first-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams argued she was being treated differently because she’s a woman after calling the chair umpire a “thief.”
Williams was handed multiple controversial penalties in the match, including one that cost her a game and put Osaka up, 5-3, in the second (and final) set.
“Because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?” she demanded to officials.
As her longtime coach, Patrick Mouratoglou — who caused the first penalty with a coaching violation — claimed, “100 percent of the coaches in 100 percent of the matches” are coaching when men and women are on the court but are seldom called out for it. And Williams — along with several players, including now-ESPN commentator Chris Evert — pointed out that men who call the umpires names are not usually penalized a game, if penalized at all.
In her post-match press conference, Serena continued that argument:
“I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief because I thought he took a game from me. But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things, and I’m here, fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. And for me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never (taken) a game from a man because they said, ‘thief.’ For me, it blows my mind.
“But I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have (equality). Like, (Alizé) Cornet should be able to take her shirt off without getting a fine. This is outrageous, you know? And I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves, and they want to be a strong woman. And they’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”
Williams is referencing an incident from last week when French player Alizé Cornet was penalized for briefly taking her shirt off mid-match. After a break because of the oppressive heat at the tournament, she returned to the court and realized her shirt was on backward, so she fixed it.
While this sparked a debate about sexism at the U.S. Open, the discussion was further fueled after Novak Djovokic sat in his chair shirtless for several minutes during a break in his quarterfinals match. He was not penalized.
Here’s what Mouratoglou said after the match about the double standard he and Williams believe she is held to.