What We Can Learn from the U.S. Open Finals Drama

Drama usually makes for good sport, though the women’s U.S. Open final was derailed by the scene between Serena Williams and the umpire. As soon as news of Serena’s game penalty was blasted, tweets were fired. Tennis was forgotten; the championship was turned into a political event. Many were eager to tear Serena down, while others were just as quick to defend her.

One of the greatest and worst things about social media is its immediacy. Everyone is free to blast out their very first thought moments after a newsworthy event happens. The problem is, usually your first thought isn’t your best thought. Especially in this situation, when many people reacting were not entirely educated on the rules of tennis, the expectations of an umpire, and the traditional boundaries of losing your temper on the court.

I still have mixed feelings about what went down in Saturday’s final, but what I do know is this: Serena is an influencer of the most esteemed variety. Her celebrity has reached new heights, and she’s become a voice for mothers and women around the country. She’s regarded as a queen, an idol, a fashion icon, and the greatest athlete of all time. But she’s also a human, which we were reminded of when she lost her temper Saturday.

What she does, and what she says matters, and this event was further evidence of that.

In her usual fashion, Serena gave us something to talk about. The championship raised several interesting questions. Was this a form of sexism? How do we overcome sexism in sports? Are the rules of coaching on the court antiquated? Did Serena or the umpire take it too far? What, if anything, should have been done differently by both Serena and the umpire to ensure a different outcome?

Here’s a roundup of reads that thoughtfully explore these questions:

The New York Times: “Serena Williams Accuses Official of Sexism in U.S. Open Loss to Naomi Osaka”

The Washington Post: “Billie Jean King: Serena is still treated differently than male athletes”

The New York Times: “Serena Williams Spotlights Tennis Inequities, but in the Best Way?”

The New York Times: “Carlos Ramos, Umpire Known for Rigidity, Lands in U.S. Open Firestorm”

The Wall Street Journal: “Serena Williams Fined $17,000 for U.S. Open Violations”

ESPN: “Reaction: Outrage around violations against Serena; praise for Osaka”