It happened to Serena Williams in collisions with the governing organizations of tennis, but never as dramatically as in the women's final at the US Open on Saturday.
He had a bad feeling from the moment that Williams approached the chairman Carlos Ramos during the second set of his match against Naomi Osaka, defending himself against his accusation that he was being led by coach Patrick Mouratoglou from a box on the court. This would be a turning point in the game, I felt, and it's not good for Williams.
Ramos did not openly state that Williams was cheating, but the implication of the referee's decision left little room for doubt that he believed he was trying to gain an unfair advantage. Williams insisted, "I tell you that I do not cheat to win, I prefer to lose, and I'm just telling you." The effusive applause of the crowd after the exchange made it clear that the audience thought she was right.
However, instead of warning Mouratoglou, Ramos had penalized Williams, a professional athlete with 23 Grand Slam titles, and therefore well versed in tennis rules and regulations, for her coach's misstep. Mouratoglou later admitted that he had been gesturing to Williams and was baffled that a common practice among coaches in tennis tournaments was suddenly being punished. Williams not only had to bear the brunt of the referee's decision, but he also had to accept that it was not a violation of her.
And it was a turning point. Anguished and frustrated, Williams clearly lost her concentration. She broke her racket after misjudging a shot, and was penalized for it, the only justified decision against her in what turned out to be a fateful trio. With two infractions, he was imposed a penalty of one point, in a match where each point was vital.
During a break, Williams was still waiting for Ramos to acknowledge that she had not cheated: "You're attacking my character, yes, you are, you owe me an apology." She did not want her integrity to be stained by the false characterization of a man. Ramos could have deactivated the situation by simply saying that he understood her point of view, and then warning her that if she continued talking, he would penalize her for the third time.
Instead, he let Williams continue, until she made the seemingly unforgivable point that Ramos was a "thief" for stealing a point. Nobody who would seriously listen would believe that Williams was accusing him of robbery, however, at that moment, Ramos, defending his integrity, evaluated a third violation. That automatically meant a penalty for a game against Williams, a disaster in a game in which he was trying to return from falling in the first set. Losing the second set meant losing the game, and she did.
Some of the media descriptions of Williams' actions in court as "furious diatribe," "rapture," "shocking diatribe," and "crisis" only support the stereotypes and unconscious prejudice that permeate our culture, eager to characterize the black women so angry and women in general as unable to control our emotions.
"I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality and all kinds of things," Williams told reporters after the game, pointing out to Ramos that "he never took a man's game because they said & # 39; thief & # 39 ;. For me, it surprises me, but I will continue to fight for women. "
He showed this with his warm hug from the Osaka winner during the award ceremony. Osaka, the 20-year-old daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, was crying after what must have been an overwhelming experience when she won her first Grand Slam title.
The victory was hollow, unfortunately, stained forever by the same old sexist and misogynist tropes that women and black women in particular have been dealing with for centuries. Osaka says he grew up idolizing Williams. And I should have done it, not only because of the way Williams played the game, but also because of what he has represented throughout his career. Thanks to Williams, the path that Osaka follows in tennis and life can be a little less difficult, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
De Luca is a media consultant and former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine.
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