When the Letter of the Law Supersedes the Spirit

On Facebook, I recently posted an article from the Washington Post regarding the Women’s Singles US Open Final and the controversy which took place during that match. I won’t go into the details, which you can read in the article, but one of the points I’ve seen come up repeatedly is that Serena Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, admitted he was coaching during the match, which led to the first code violation assessed to Serena and the start of the controversy.

Patrick also pointed out, correctly, that EVERY coach does this, and the broadcast also pointed out that Serena wasn’t even looking up at the box when the coaching violation was called, so she didn’t even know what her coach was doing. Ramos had the option to give a verbal warning to Serena at that point or, what MOST umpires do in sports, assess the situation and determine if action is necessary, but he chose to try to make an example of her and her team, and doing so during the Final.

There have been reports that Osaka’s coach was verbally coaching her. I haven’t confirmed that yet, but, if so, why was she not also hit with a code violation?

Serena was rightfully called for a code violation for racket abuse. The problem is that she was assessed a point penalty since it was the second violation of the match. That’s what made her so angry at that point. She already felt like she was getting singled out from the “coaching” call. That’s why she was adamant about an apology from Ramos. Was calling Ramos a “thief” going too far? Maybe, but we have seen multiple players, ESPECIALLY on the men’s side, who have said far worse to umpires and see little to no punishment. That was Serena’s point to the tournament referee after the game penalty was called. Again, Ramos could have told Serena that he would have to assess a game penalty if she continued. He did not and simply penalized her again.

I don’t know if you saw the video of the MLB umpire with his mic’s audio from a game with the Mets when Terry Valentine was manager. You can see the umpire doing everything he can to defuse the situation and only ejected Valentine when he had no other recourse. It’s the umpire’s job to assess the situation and apply BOTH the spirit AND the letter of the law to what is occurring at that time. Ramos did not even attempt to do so.

Another example – How often do basketball fans bemoan the referees not “letting the players play” during the final minutes of a game, regardless of the infractions getting called? Ramos should have let the players play. Instead, he made this match about himself and marred both Serena’s and Naomi’s attempts to make history.

Naomi most likely would have won as she was playing the better game, but Ramos interjected himself too much into the match and overshadowed her accomplishment. She will win more majors, I’m sure, but this is not how you want your first Major victory to be remembered.