The match was billed as historic. If Serena Williams won she would have 24 grand slam wins to her credit, tying Margaret Court for the most wins in women’s tennis. Naomi Osaka got off to a strong start and won the first set. Many of us were surprised that this newcomer would come out swinging against one of the best tennis players of all time. The second set started and it appeared that Naomi was going to win the match in straight sets in just over an hour, however Serena did seem to be catching up ever so slightly.
That’s when the trouble began. Serena was given a warning because the chair umpire saw that her coach was signaling to her. This rule is rarely enforced according to many of the tennis commentators. Serena became angry and started to badger the chair umpire and called him a thief. When she saw that this didn’t impact the umpire’s decision, she slammed and broke her racket as ‘that’s what passionate players do.’ She was charged a point for this. She couldn’t stop and eventually was penalized 1 game.
The match continued and Naomi Osaka won her first grand slam at the US Open. Serena was not going to go quietly and essentially destroyed this moment for her opponent and her opponent’s fans.
Serena was successful in getting people to believe that she was a victim of sexism and that men are treated differently. This is true in tennis and in life, however in this instance she and popular opinion are dead wrong.
The minute Serena started her rant, my memory went back to the 2009 US Open Women’s Tennis final when Serena played against Kim Clijsters in the final. Back then, she did the same exact thing at the same point in the match. She was penalized for her behavior and the match ended without the players playing for match point.
When Serena is losing a match that she thinks she should win, she is known to display this kind of behavior. If she cannot win, she makes sure that her opponents win will be as unpleasant as possible.
Serena showed the worst form of sexism by her behavior last Saturday. Unfortunately, Naomi Osaka’s win will be remembered by Serena’s bad behavior and little else.
When Serena tried to calm the crowd during the award ceremony, it was too late as the damage was already done.
Neither tennis nor women’s rights lost last week. Serena lost….plain and simple.
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.