Tennis legend Billie Jean King has said Serena Williams was “totally out of line” with her behaviour during the US Open final, but also suggested that umpire Carlos Ramos could have handled the situation better.
Portuguese official Carlos Ramos was accused of sexism in the aftermath of the match, which saw him involved in an escalating dispute with Serena Williams that ended with him slapping the player with a one game penalty as she lost in straight sets to Naomi Osaka in New York on Saturday evening.
Ramos handed Williams with three code violations – the first for on-court coaching, the second for racket abuse and finally the game penalty for verbal abuse, after Williams call him “a liar” and “a thief”.
“Serena was out of line, there’s no question,” King told CNN.
Her comments mark a change of heart after King initially backed the 23-time grand clam champion, tweeting after the final: “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalised for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions.
“Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
King criticised Serena’s lack of sportsmanship, but also said that Ramos was to blame for inflaming the situation.
“No one was saying she was a good sport, if they are they’re crazy,” added King.
“The point is he (Ramos) aggravated the situation, instead of ‘I’m not attacking your character’ which is the most important thing he could have said.”
“I felt like he blew it,” said King. “First of all as an umpire you’re supposed to keep the flow of the match going and he did just the opposite.
“He needed to tell Serena – he can’t apologise he did the right thing there, he can’t apologise, he’s got to be the boss – but all he had to say to Serena is ‘I am not attacking your character’.
“Character is the essence of what was going on there, she was so upset about that, those kids (Serena and Venus) have been brought up to play by the rules.
“We know he’s a black and white guy. The character was the biggest issue here, this is a human being you’re talking to. If he had said ‘I’m not attacking your character’, everything would have been different.”
Meanwhile, Ramos also spoke out for the first time since the controversy on Tuesday.
Speaking to Tribuna Expresso Ramos said: “I’m fine, given the circumstances. It’s a delicate situation, but ‘à la carte’ arbitration does not exist. Do not worry about me!”
His comments come ahead of this weekend’s Davis Cup, which he confirmed will see him take to the chair to officiate for the match between Croatia and the United States.
His appearance could prove awkward after several figures from the US Tennis Association, including president Katrina Adams, publicly supported Williams in her sexism allegations.
Adams told ESPN after the match that Ramos would not have dealt out such severe punishments if he had been dealing with a male player.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Monday defended Ramos, backing the umpire for the way he handled the situation in difficult circumstances.
The Davis Cup tie is scheduled to start on Friday.