And At The US Open, The Loser Is. . .
Julio Gonzalez, M.D., J.D.
The recent antics at the U.S. Open Women's Final's game were nothing short of shameful. It was a weekend where the reigning queen of tennis, Serena Williams, by verbally abusing an umpire and breaking her racket, displayed a level of unsportsmanlike conduct unbecoming of even a Democratic United States Senator. Behavior so rancid that it unprecedentedly prompted a former uncontested Queen of Tennis, Martina Navratilova, to write an article in the New York Times reprimanding Serena for her behavior. But the real culprit, the one engaging in the most offensive behavior was not either one of the players. It wasn't the referee. It wasn't even the U.S. Tennis Association.
For the sake of background, let's recap the events leading to America's latest public circus. This year's U.S Open Women's Final pitted the often great Serena Williams against an upstart in tennis, a 20-year-old Japanese woman named Naomi Osaka. It was a match everyone expected, or even hoped, Serena would win. Serena, with her muscular frame and nearly infinite experience ought to, all observers thought, handily defeat relatively inexperienced, 19th ranked player.
But then life happened.
Things began to unravel when, in the second set, Serena was given a warning for coaching. In professional tennis, a player's coach is not allowed to give instructions during the match, and the responsibility for the coach's behavior falls squarely on the player. On this occasion, Serena's coach was given a warning when he was seen giving Serena two-handed signals. Although Serena claimed to not have been aware of the signals and to not be a cheater, the fact is that whether she was aware of her coach's actions or not was strictly irrelevant. He did it, and she gets docked. Those are the rules.
Although many will argue that the illegal conduct takes place all the time in tennis, like so many other times in sports, this time the umpire called it. It happens. The game goes on.
Later Serena's conduct degraded further when she purposely broke her racket after losing her serve. Racket abuse is an automatic violation in professional tennis, but Serena, upon being charged with a violation continued her decompensation by vociferously arguing with the umpire, Carlos Ramos.
Mr. Ramos, at this point, and apparently with no discretion to do otherwise, deducted a point from Serena, to which Serena responded by accosting him, demanding an apology, and at one point calling him a thief. Throughout these antics, Naomi kept her cool, and merely waited for her opponent to regain her composure long enough to continue the match.
As so often happens in tennis, the player that maintains her cool and does not engage in disruptive antics wins the match, and this case was no exception. Naomi went on to win the match and become tennis's latest U.S. Open Champion.
But later things really got out of hand at the Awards Ceremony when ESPN's Tom Rinaldi took to the microphone to welcome everyone. Instead of the expected cheers, Rinaldi was met with loud and intense booing and howling from the crowd, taunting so intense that it unleashed tears from the eyes of the young Naomi causing her to hide her face behind her visor.
It was a despicable display at so many levels. Of course, the conduct most easily absconded is that of Serena Williams herself. Her immature display and rants was certainly unbecoming of a professional athlete, especially one of her stature.
But Serena's misconduct was surpassed by those displayed during the Awards Ceremony. First, the comments of the United States Tennis Association President Katrina Adams where she observed that "perhaps this was not the result we were looking for today," were as shocking as they were condescending. To make such official commentary when ostensibly serving as a neutral overseeing authority of a championship that knows no winner until after the matches are played displays an inherent bias unbecoming of any league. Then, to ad to the surrealism of the moment, she adulates Serena, calling her a "a role model and respected by all."
Well, not that day. That day, Serena had just disrespected all authority in tennis. She had engaged in deplorable behavior that ultimately cost her $17,000.00 and brought great discredit to her career and her league. And she demonstrated the very behavior parents of young tennis players train their kids to avoid. If anything, Adams should have shunned Serena that day, not sung her praises.
Then there was the opportunistic conduct of Serena herself. Only after noticing that her opponent had been shamed to tears did she soften her stance. But even then she displayed only self-righteousness. To Serena, she was the one who had been wronged, and she was going to demonstrate a false sense of grace only because it would soothe the crowd and afford her greater standing before them. Her very claim that "we will get through this," were comments assuming that something had gone terribly wrong and that some terrible injustice would somehow be corrected through perseverance and faith.
No, Serena. There had been no injustice. You lost, 6-2; 6-3. You lost fair and square, and the umpire's actions against which you so immaturely protest were completely compliant with the rules you were required to uphold.
But worst of all was the conduct of the fans. Since when do we shun the underdog? Since when are we such blind followers of power and royalty that we would gladly bypass the rules and forgive misbehaviors merely so that we can anoint the Queen the winner? And since when do we enter a sporting event with such preconceived notions of the outcome that we scowl at any result that does not fit our narrative?
Oh, yeah. I forgot. Since the liberals took over our schools and the modern Democrats set foot upon the White House ten years ago. My apologies. . .
But at least there was one redeeming factor. Throughout it all there was one figure demonstrating pure and unbridled class. She demonstrated more humility than most of us have seen in decades, and more gratitude for the blessings she had been given than many churchgoers do today. She was an individual that throughout all the punishment, she thanked the very crowd that was berating her for the honor of watching her match and then thanked Queen Serena for playing against her. She was a shining light not only on the court, but even more so afterwards. That person was the new U.S. Open Champion, and the first tennis champion from Japan, Ms. Naomi Osaka. May her example live long into tennis's future and may she continue to display all those attributes that, at least on this occasion, Serena Williams couldn't.
Dr. Julio Gonzalez is an orthopaedic surgeon and lawyer living in Venice, Florida. He is the author of The Federalist Pages and serves in the Florida House of Representatives. He can be reached through www.thefederalistpages.comto arrange a lecture or book signing.