OPINION: ITF right to back umpire over Serena
Cape Town - Thank you to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for calling a spade a spade - and not beating about the bush like many others.
Carlos Ramos has long been considered one of the outstanding tennis umpires in the world. He handled the US Open women's final with unwavering integrity and totally in accordance with all the entrenched rules of the tournament - and Serena Williams' behaviour, particularly for one of such high acclaim and repute, was ugly and embarrassing.
In unequivocally lauding the Portuguese-born umpire as "one of the most respected in the game", the ITF placed Williams' astonishing rant during her stunning 6-2, 6-4 defeat against 20-year-old Japanese prodigy Naomi Osaka at Flushing Meadows - and the manner in which Ramos handled it - into perspective.
A near-hysterical Williams labelled Ramos "a thief and a liar", among other insults, while suggesting he would never dare set foot on the same court as her in the future.
But the statement from the ITF declared the 47-year-old Ramos performed his duties with integrity and professionalism - while systematically following the letter of the law.
The ITF is the controlling body of international tennis and represents more than 200 member nations, leaving little doubt as to how it felt about the ugly controversy that was escalated by the 36-year-old Williams making the provocative and unsupported claim that her warning for receiving off-court coaching; penalised a point for shattering her racquet to smithereens in frustration as she hurtled to pending defeat and ultimately handed the loss of a game for her crude outburst, was motivated by Ramos's sexism.
Sexism indeed? Williams has threatened to shove a ball down the throat of a female lineslady for ruling against her at a previous US Open; brazenly insulted a female umpire and berated her opponents.
"The umpire's decisions were all made in accordance with the rules," proclaimed the ITF's statement, "and were re-affirmed by the US Open's decision to fine Williams for all three offences."
Williams has been fined $17 000 for her cumulative indiscretions, which may be considered no more than a rap on the knuckles in view of the fact she received $1.85 million dollars as a losing finalist.
Most regrettable, under the circumstances, the praise for the heroic and accomplished performance from Osaka was diverted by the controversial upheaval, precipitated by the 23-times Grand Slam winner, whose level of play during a momentous career is without question, but who was not only outplayed by her young opponent, but also shamed in how to behave on a tennis court.