Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player of all time — including male tennis players.
She’s won the most Grand Slam titles of any other player, and her pure skill is unmatched by anyone, even her sister Venus. Maria Sharapova, one of her rivals, even went as far as taking steroids in a failed effort to win against her. Her strength and talent make her both highly observed and a prominent figure in the public eye, and of course, with media attention comes scrutiny.
Most recently, an altercation with an umpire during the U.S. Open ignited headlines painting Williams as a woman filled with rage. Umpire Carlos Ramos handed her a series of code violations during the match on Saturday ruling that Williams was cheating by receiving hand signals from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou in the stands. She then received a point penalty for smashing her racket, followed by a penalty for “verbal abuse” after the altercation.
“You stole a point from me and you are a thief,” Williams told Ramos.
Additionally, Williams described the code violations she was given as unfair and sexist, citing that Ramos has never taken a game from a man because of his usage of the word thief. Williams was also fined $17,000 after the match.
The International Tennis Federation released a statement Monday writing that Carlos Ramos is “one of the most experienced and respected” umpires in tennis and that he did not break any rules regarding his decision to fine Serena for the three offenses.
“I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equal (rights). I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves, and they want to be a strong woman, and they’re going to be allowed to do that because of today,” Williams remarked.
Post-match, legendary tennis player Billie Jean King wrote a piece in Serena’s defense.
King stated that “Women are treated differently in most arenas of life. This is especially true for women of color. And what played out on the court yesterday happens far too often. It happens in sports, in the office and in public service. Ultimately, a woman was penalized for standing up for herself.”
These rules based on sexism must change immediately, and Serena Williams (and most recently Alize Cornet) are supreme examples of this. If male tennis players are held to a different standard than female tennis players, the fairness of this sport becomes compromised.
In addition to the rampant sexism Williams has faced, she has also been subject to brutal racism. Every victory of hers is questioned, critiqued, and she is ultimately made out to be the villain. For example, after her win at the French Open in June 2015, she was compared to an animal, a man, and deemed “frightening” and “horrifyingly unattractive” — all because she dares to be a strong, successful black female athlete.
Additionally, after suffering a complicated pregnancy, Williams wore a full-body “catsuit” on the court in order to prevent blood clots. This suit was deemed “inappropriate” by French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli — even though traditional dress for female tennis players involve tight athletic tops and short skirts.
If Williams is not exposed to sexism, it’s racism — or both.
In spite of these immense challenges faced by Serena Williams throughout her entire career, she shows us that to be a real champion, you must persevere and nothing will get in your way.