Barely one week into the U.S. Open and the season-ending major tennis tournament has had a little bit of everything — historic achievements, amazing come from behind wins, nail-bitingly close matches. But now it seems that sexism can be added to that growing list of defining moments at this year’s U.S. Open after a couple of matches on Friday managed to resurface simmering sentiments of double standards in officiating men and women players — an issue that Serena Williams brought attention to last year at the same tournament.
Williams, as some might remember, was given three code violations by chair umpire Carlos Ramos that significantly altered the course of the championship match that she ultimately lost. Her loss was arguably because she was docked a full game for 1) being accused of receiving coaching and 2) breaking her racket during a heated exchange with Ramos. In the end, Williams was fined $17,000 for the violations that many people said prevented her from finishing the comeback she had been mounting in what turned out to be a losing effort.
Fast-forward one year later and on Friday, Stan Wawrinka threw his racket toward a linesman out of frustration. When he seemed incredulous that he wasn’t penalized, he even asked the chair umpire about it. Still, he avoided even a warning, let alone being docked a point for the apparent racket abuse.
A few hours later, Daniil Medvedev pushed the double standard envelope even further when he snatched a towel from a ball boy out of anger, rightfully resulting in a code violation. But Medvedev’s reaction to that violation — flinging his racket in the direction of (at?) the chair umpire before giving the chair umpire the middle finger, all on live TV — seemingly should have earned him more violations.
The two situations on Friday harkened back to last year when Williams confronted Ramos for, as she said, calling her a cheater. She demanded an apology for what she saw as a sexist double standard.
“There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right,” Williams said at the time.
Williams continued with the same talking points while addressing the press after that match last year.
“I don’t think I do much worse,” she said of the way men seem to avoid penalties after reacting similarly passionately in the heat of competition. “There’s a lot of men out here that have said a lot of things but because they are men, that doesn’t happen to them.”
In the end, perhaps both Wawrinka and Medvedev will be fined. But each man was privileged enough to win his match without suffering crippling code violations that put them in unwinnable situations.