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More Naomi, less Serena

More Naomi, less Serena

More Naomi, less Serena
September 13
12:35 2018

This is a complicated editorial to write. However, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to talk about women’s rights, equality and sexism. It was just too juicy to let go. Happens that I don’t know squat about tennis. That is why I enrolled my good friend Marisa who is an expert tennis player and fan, we had a heated conversation over the topic and reached some interesting conclusions.

Need to start by saying: Yes, there is sexism in tennis. There is sexism on everything. Men will get away with many more things than women. We see that everyday at work, in sports, and at home. Because we are women, we are not supposed to behave ‘a certain way’ or say things that are not ‘lady-like’. I have heard that over and over again, especially when I don’t behave ‘lady-like’.

It is hard to behave ‘lady-like’ when you [the lady] feel that you are being treated unfairly. It is hard to accept things that are unfair with a smile on your face. However, in Serena’s story, the game violations she was penalized for, happened, and the calls made by the ref were technically accurate.

During the 2018 edition of the U.S. Open, over 70 violations were issued to male players, while over 20 were issued to women. From these numbers I would draw the conclusion that men are more prone to violations, and therefore they get more calls. I even remember the “bad boys” of tennis, like John McEnroe and later Andre Agassi, who got in big trouble for displaying crazy behavior. And not too long ago, Fabio Fognini was also thrown out and banned from the U.S. Open.

I have found out that men use more cuss words than women in tennis. But I think the problem in the Serena situation was the fact that she continued to show anger and escalated the situation, with disregard of the rules and standards of the game. While men might drop an f-bomb here and there to the referees, Serena called the man on the high chair “a thief”. Much has been said about that word. But in my opinion, the word was not as bad as the chain of events and the contexts in which it was said: “You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry…And you stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too!” Williams yelled at [referee] Ramos.

If the issue was to address disparity in how women and men are treated in and outside of the game, the strategy and the venue were not ideal. To make a point to this, Serena needed to focus on her game, on trying to win it, and then address it outside of the court, maybe with a letter, or a complaint, a lawsuit or even an op-ed. Men and women can both have anger issues, and they are both wrong. Criticizing a woman for failing to control her anger is as fair as criticizing a man for the same thing. Finding an effective way to address inequality issues will take us faster where we need to be. Blaming mishaps of the game on ‘sexist’ reffing, not so much.

The upside of this whole story was Naomi Osaka. She handled the situation like a champion, with true grace under fire. She received her trophy in tears and declined to answer provocative questions after the match. She treasured playing with her childhood idol, and moreover defeating her. Makes me think of us who live in America. It reminds me of a president that wins the election and keeps whining about not winning the popular vote. In an environment charged with tension of all types -political, racial, ethnic- where being ‘politically correct’ is now considered a weakness, here comes Naomi Osaka to remind us how a true champion acts.


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