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Sexism and tennis… an old row in a new court?

Sexism and tennis… an old row in a new court?

By Caroline Baker - 28 September 2018

The Womens 2018 US Open final will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. Serena Williams was handed code violations that she described as unfair, first for being coached, then for smashing her racket and then for verbal abuse.

She argued that male players have historically called umpires “several things” and have not been subjected to the same treatment.

Billie Jean King, a former tennis star, concurred with Williams, tweeting: “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard, More voices are needed to do the same.”

Andy Roddick also agreed, tweeting: “I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty.”

However, the tide of views has not been one way, with others, including Jamie Murray and Czech tennis player Barbora Srycova, suggesting that umpire Carlos Ramos treated her as he would have treated a man who acted in the same way.

Whether we agree with Williams or not her outburst will now bring a new focus on the consistency of decisions between the genders. In the tennis world, with code violations, consistency of decision-making is relatively easy to analyse; it is more difficult in an office environment where the tv cameras are notably absent! However, simply having a greater consciousness of the issue is at least a starting point and therefore even if we agree with Srycova (who branded Williams’ claims of sexism as “bulls***”) this cannot be a bad thing.