The Grand Slam prohibits coaching from the stands to players on the court. In Saturday’s women’s finals match between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, the chair empire, Carlos Ramos, issued a warning to Ms. Williams because he had spotted her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, making hand gestures from the stands. Mr. Ramos believed the hand signals to be coaching, something that Mr. Mouratoglou later admitted to be true.
However, Ms. Williams saw things differently. She was upset and told Mr. Ramos, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” Her behavior disintegrated — racket abuse penalty (loss of a point), demands by Ms. Williams that Mr. Ramos apologize and announce that she was not being coached, then Ms. Williams calling Mr. Ramos a “thief,” which then resulted in a penalty of a lost game. Ms. Williams continued to argue with Mr. Ramos, the crowd got into booing, Ms. Osaka won, and the ceremony was tense. To her credit, Ms. Williams stepped in to stop the crowd’s booing and to offer her congratulations to Ms. Osaka.
We are all left with sad hearts. There are now cries of sexism over the penalties for Ms. Williams because, as she has argued, male players are given more latitude. However, the bottom line is that the call on coaching and an admission of its truth (a truth that emerged after the match with the coach’s self-admission) might have halted the inexorable march to anger, ruined rackets, confrontations, and a bittersweet victory for Ms. Osaka. This match was not a study in sportsmanship. This was a study in the truth percolating. When coach and player cannot keep their stories straight, the chair empire is correct in calling it as he saw it.