I am not much of a tennis fan and don’t have a strong view on whether it was wrong for the umpire to have penalized Serena Williams with a lost game in yesterday’s final match at the U.S. Open. But there can be no doubt that she behaved shamefully, and the ultimate responsibility for the controversy is on her and her appalling lack of grace.
It all began when the umpire warned her — just warned her — about her coach signaling her from the stands, which the coach afterward confirmed he’d been doing (although he says Serena was unaware of it). Then the umpire penalized her a point for breaking her racket, which she did under her own power and in plain view of everyone after she lost a game. Then she freaked out and launched a tirade of unhinged verbal abuse at the umpire. Maybe he should have turned the other cheek, but this was a remarkably childish display — she called the umpire a thief for penalizing her for the clear violation of breaking her racket, and she demanded an apology for citing her for the coaching that, as far as the umpire could tell, was definitely happening.
Afterward, she didn’t express regret over losing her cool but blamed sexism for her predicament. The match will be forever remembered now as taking place under a cloud because of the game penalty, but Serena was getting soundly beaten and almost certainly would have lost anyway. There was only one woman on the court who played and conducted herself like a champion, and it was the 20-year-old kid. Congrats to Naomi Osaka.