By the Book: How Umpire Ramos Followed Rules in Punishing Serena

Umpire Ramos handed Serena Williams three code violations during the US Open final. But was he following conduct?

4 min read
Chair umpire Carlos Ramos talks with Serena Williams during the women’s final of the US Open.

In one of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of recent times, Serena Williams was handed three code violations during her match against Naomi Osaka for the US Open women’s singles title.

The 36-year-old star tennis player was cited by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for: getting coaching signals; for breaking her racket, which cost her a point; and for calling the chair umpire a “thief”, which cost her a game.

Screenshot of the Women’s Tennis Association’s Official Rulebook.
Screenshot of the Women’s Tennis Association’s Official Rulebook.

The 23-time Grand Slam champion, who was also fined $17,000, felt she had been treated unfairly in the match she went on to lose 2-6, 4-6. Besides demanding apologies from the official Ramos during the match, Williams later said that one of his violations had been a ‘sexist remark’.

But according to the Women’s Tennis Association’s Official Rulebook, Ramos had only been complying to guidelines while reprimanding Serena. Here’s how.

First Offence

Serena’s Violation: Getting Coaching Signals
Penalty: Warning, $4,000

In the second game of the second set, umpire Carlos Ramos warned Serena for getting guidance from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who was sitting in the stands. According to the rulebook, players are not allowed to receive coaching during a match (including warm up) unless it has been with the exception of the allowed coaching.

By the Book: How Umpire Ramos Followed Rules in Punishing Serena

Serena Williams responded to her first penalty by approaching the umpire and telling him she would ‘rather lose’ than cheat. Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou later however admitted to coaching the American tennis star but said she didn't see him, which is why she lashed out at the official.

The code of conduct states that “Violations of this Section shall subject a Player to a fine up to $5,000 for each violation”. Serena was given a warning and fined $4,000.


Second Offence

Serena’s Violation: Breaking her racket
Point Penalty, $3,000

In the sixth game of the second set, Serena smashed her racket on the court.

According to the Code of Conduct, “Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a racquet or other equipment within the precincts of the Tournament site. For the purposes of this rule, abuse of racquets or equipment is defined as intentionally, dangerously and violently hitting the net, court, umpire’s chair or other fixture during a match out of anger”.

Serena Williams slams her racket on the court during the women’s final of the US Open.
Serena Williams slams her racket on the court during the women’s final of the US Open.
(Photo: AP)

Since this was Serena's second violation, it cost her a point as well as $3,000. After being handed this violation, Serena walked to her kit and unwrapped a new racket, but then once again approached the umpire to argue about the previous reprimand. She asked Ramos to announce on the mic that she did not cheat.


Third Offence

Serena’s Violation: Calling the chair umpire a “thief”
Game Penalty, $10,000

At the change of ends after the seventh game, Serena got into another argument with the umpire. “You stole a point from me, you are a thief too,” she said while getting up and returning to her side of the court. “Code violation,” Ramos announced on the mic, adding that this time he would dock her an entire game.

Here’s what the ‘Verbal Abuse’ section under the Code of Conduct of the WTA Official Rulebook says:

“Players shall not at any time directly or indirectly verbally abuse any official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or any other person within the precincts of the Tournament site.”

This violation is however, contentious. One could question whether the word ‘thief’ is as offensive as the consequence. The rulebook states that abuse is defined as any statement that “implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive”.

In the context that Serena used the term “thief” in, the term could have been derogatory, or even insulting. And hence, validating Ramos’ point.

For this third violation, Serena was handed a Game Penalty as Osaka’s lead was bumped up to 5-3 from the earlier 4-3 in the second set.

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