Tennis sexism row hots up after Serena rage

Foul: Serena called umpire Carlos Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” after he docked her points.

Is Serena a bad loser? Last week’s US Open final descended into chaos after Williams launched a verbal attack against the umpire. It has sparked a debate about sexism in sport and society.

What’s happening

Last week Serena Williams lost in the US Open final after a furious argument with the umpire. She accused him of sexism after he penalised her three times (for verbal abuse, breaking her racquet, and getting unfair help from her coach). She stands by her words, but others think she was wrong.

Find out more

Williams said she was “fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality”, claiming that male players have behaved far worse without being punished.

Former player Billie Jean King agreed: “when a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions,” she said.

The number of penalties given to male and female players is actually very similar. In women’s matches in 2018 there was an average of 0.037 penalties per set. It is slightly lower for men, with an average of 0.034 penalties.

Therefore, some people think that Williams was out of order. Fellow player Cara Black said: “I don’t think sexism was a part in it”, and that the umpire was “just doing his job”.

Is Serena a bad loser?

Some say…

Of course. This was nothing more than a temper tantrum. It was a shocking example to set for her younger fans. Furthermore, it is not all about winning. A champion must also be able to lose with grace. Her actions stole the limelight from the incredible achievement of her opponent, Naomi Osaka — a young player who once looked up to her.

Others think…

Not necessarily. The umpire was following the rules, but he did not have to enforce them so harshly. More importantly, this is not just about tennis. As some have pointed out, women are often treated differently to men in sport, but also in the wider world too. Serena’s passion and anger makes us think about how we can make society more fair.

You Decide

  1. Are women treated unfairly in the world today?


  1. Can you think of ways that men and women are treated differently in life. Discuss in pairs or small groups and write down your ideas. Are some of these differences unfair? Why? Are some of these differences OK? Would you change anything about the world to increase equality between men and women?

Some People Say...

“I am not a robot. I have a heart and I bleed.”

Serena Williams

What do you think?

Word Watch

Treating people differently because of their sex or gender.
To be given a punishment.
Behaving in an extremely emotional and uncontrolled way.
Something bad that happens as a result of an action.
Being the centre of attention.
Strong feelings or emotions.


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