Novak Djokovic criticised Carlos Ramos, the umpire who clashed with Serena Williams in the US Open women’s singles final here on Saturday, but did not agree with claims that officials treat men differently to women.
After winning his third singles title here at Flushing Meadows on Sunday Djokovic said that Ramos was wrong to have “pushed Serena to the limit” during her straight-sets defeat by Naomi Osaka.
Ramos gave Williams three code violations, for on-court coaching, for racket abuse and for verbal abuse. After the second code violation she was deducted a point, after which Williams called him “a thief”.
That earned her a third code violation for verbal abuse and with it a one-game penalty, which left her trailing by a set and 5-3. Osaka went on to win the second set 6-4.
“I love Serena,” Djokovic said. “I really felt for her yesterday. It was a tough thing for a chair umpire to deal with as well. We have to empathise with him.
“Everyone was in a very awkward situation yesterday. A lot of emotions. Serena was crying. Naomi was crying. It was really, really tough.
“But I have my personal opinion that maybe the chair umpire should not have pushed Serena to the limit, especially in a Grand Slam final.
“He changed the course of the match, which in my opinion was unnecessary. We all go through our emotions, especially when you're fighting for a Grand Slam trophy.”
After the match Williams accused Ramos of sexism, claiming that he had never deducted a game from a male player for calling him “a thief”.
The former world No 1 received backing on Sunday from Steve Simon, the Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Tennis Association, who claimed that umpires do not treat female players in the same way as men.
Simon said in a statement: “The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men versus women and is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same. We do not believe that this was done last night.”
Djokovic, however, disagreed. “I don't see things as Mr Simon does,” he said. “I think men and women are treated in this way or the other way depending on the situation. It's hard to generalise things.”
Simon also called for changes to the rules about on-court coaching. In WTA events players are allowed to call their coaches on to the court, but all forms of communication between players and coaches are banned during matches at Grand Slam tournaments.
“We think the issue of coaching needs to be addressed and should be allowed across the sport,” Simon said. “The WTA supports coaching through its on-court coaching rule, but further review is needed.”
Williams’ first code violation during Saturday’s final was for coaching after Ramos saw Patrick Mouratoglou, her coach, make gestures to the American from her player box.
Mouratoglou later admitted that he had been coaching Williams but said all coaches did so. Williams, nevertheless, insisted that she never used on-court coaching.
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