Tennis

The umpire strikes back

ITF supports chair umpire Ramos, while Navratilova also says Williams was wrong in her outburst

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has given its backing to Portuguese chair umpire Carlos Ramos, whom Serena Williams branded a "liar" and a "thief" during her US Open final defeat by Japan's Naomi Osaka on Saturday.

Williams, who was seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title, was given a warning for a coaching violation before incurring a point penalty for smashing her racket.

After accusing Ramos of being "a thief for stealing a point from me", she was docked a game.

The six-time US Open champion, who eventually lost the match 6-2, 6-4, was fined US$17,000 (S$23,400) by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for her outburst.

"Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis," the ITF said in a statement on Monday.

" Mr Ramos' decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were reaffirmed by the US Open's decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences."

Ramos, 47, is the only active tennis umpire to have officiated the men's singles finals at all four Grand Slams.

He has also been on the chair for the women's singles finals at three of the four majors - the French Open in 2005, Wimbledon in 2008 and at Flushing Meadows on Saturday.

He received praise from the ITF for his professionalism in one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time.

"It is understandable that this high-profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate," the ITF added.

"At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity."

DISAPPOINTMENT

The ITF's support for Ramos comes after the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) expressed disappointment over the handling of the match and the USTA's plans to review its communication policies after a string of umpiring controversies.

Williams' behaviour in the final has divided the fraternity.

Tennis great Billie Jean King backed the American but Margaret Court, whose major wins record Williams was trying to equal on Saturday, expressed little sympathy for her.

Martina Navratilova, an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, says Williams was wrong in her outburst, even though she agreed there is a double standard.

Writing in an opinion article for the New York Times, the 61-year-old Czech-born American said a higher standard needed to be observed when Williams called chair umpire Carlos Ramos a "thief" and was penalised a key game in the second set.

"We cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with," Navratilova wrote.

"In fact, this is the sort of behaviour that no one should be engaging in on the court."

Williams said she was punished for saying something where men have said far worse without incurring such a penalty.

"Serena Williams has part of it right. There is a huge double standard for women when it comes to how bad behaviour is punished - and not just in tennis," Navratilova said.

"But in her protests... she also got part of it wrong.

"I don't believe it's a good idea to apply a standard of, 'If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too'.

"Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honour our sport and to respect our opponents?" - REUTERS

Tennis