The U.S. Open women’s final match between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka will go down in 2018 lore. Osaka won her first first Grand Slam — against the GOAT, no less — while Williams had a heated confrontation with umpire Carlos Ramos.
Williams was issued a violation for on-court coaching, which led into one for racket abuse and finally a third for verbal abuse.
“There are men out here who do a lot worse than me, but because I’m a woman, you are going to take this away from me? That’s not right,” Williams told Ramos in a confrontation heard and discussed around the world. She added that coaching from the box is common and the men are rarely docked for it.
Amy Lundy provided statistical analysis that gave validation to Williams’ point by tracking and comparing 73 matches from the 2018 Grand Slam season. It consisted of 100 sets of men’s tennis and 100 sets of women’s tennis for a piece that ran Tuesday on espnW titled, “Was Serena singled out in the 2018 U.S. Open final?”
How was the study done?
Those involved watched the entirety of 73 matches that was shown on camera and tracked the number of times rules were broken plus the number of times the player was penalized for breaking the rules. Lundy wrote that the Grand Slam Code of Conduct was used and the group subjectively rated the broken rules from one to five with one a “less-egregious interpretation” and a five an “indisputable violation of code.”
espnW shared detailed ratings for each violation here. Incidents of three or higher were “considered clear infractions,” Lundy wrote, and were included in what should be penalized.
Was Williams singled out?
Lundy wrote that Williams was “not given much leeway in the U.S. Open final,” as she was the only player penalized for coaching. In the final her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, signaled to her to approach the net and Ramos penalized Williams.
While coaching is against the rules, we found that the question of whether Williams and Mouratoglou were justified in their anger for the coaching warning had some merit.
In the 200 sets of tennis we analyzed, Williams was the only player to receive an official penalty, which is more eye-opening when you consider how much more coaching we saw in the men’s matches we watched.
There were 44 women’s matches analyzed with eight noted incidents of coaching, according to espnW. The rate of coaching per match was 18 percent.
In comparison the rate of coaching was 69 percent for the men’s matches, according to espnW. There were 29 men’s matches analyzed and 20 noted incidents of coaching.
The only violations given for coaching and for verbal abuse during last season’s Grand Slam season was to Williams.
USTA responds to differences
Williams declined comment at the Australian Open on Tuesday about the state of coaching.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) provided comment to espnW during the analysis.
“The U.S. Open utilizes the best officials in the world, yet we do believe we need to ensure consistent rule applications to all players and all circumstances,” said Chris Widmaier, the USTA’s managing director of corporate communications. “As you noted in your study the ‘numbers don’t suggest an inequity between treatment of men’s and women’s players,’ [yet] Serena Williams was not given much leeway.”
espnW noted that Ramos issued only one other penalty over 13 sets in the U.S. Open while Williams received zero penalties over 15 sets.
“Again, we need to do our best for consistent application of the rules,” Widmaier said. “The inconsistent application of the rules as it relates to coaching is what triggered this series of events.”
What about a difference between sexes?
The study noted higher percentages of penalties for women in terms of coaching and verbal abuse, though they committed less, and noted a lower percentage of penalties for racket abuse. It was fairly equal percentage-wise for time violations, though men commit more of them.
The study should not be strictly extrapolated on these findings due to a small sample size of violations in each category that could cause outliers to skew it.
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