WTF HAPPENED AT THE U.S. OPEN?

Years after Billie Jean King won the Battle of the Sexes, this year’s U.S. Open proved that patriarchal bullsh*t is still alive and well in women’s tennis. GOAT (and new mom) Serena Williams was set to play Naomi Osaka (a 20-year-old breakout star from Japan) in the finals. What should’ve been a kicka$$ match between two of the best players in the game right now was sidelined after a series of WTF calls by the umpire.

Throughout the match, the umpire issued a series of code violations against Serena, including one for *supposedly* slamming her racket and another for calling the ump a “thief” when she contested his call. The series of calls led Serena to lose the match, with the ensuing press describing her as a “having a meltdown”.

But, as Lily Herman writes, the U.S. Open final wasn’t about a “meltdown.” It was about good ol’ sexism.

Male tennis players do this type of thing all GD and no one sweats it -- players like John McEnroe have literally built careers out of being the “bad boy”. But when a woman does it, she’s “being difficult” or “throwing a tantrum”. And don’t even 👏🏾 get 👏🏾 us 👏🏾 started on the racist and misogynistic undertones of the press’ reaction. Calling it a meltdown “props up the harmful, racist ‘angry Black woman’ trope that Serena must maneuver around with every move she makes.”

If Williams stands up for herself, she risks code violations and rare game penalties. If she says nothing, it could mean losing matches, which means losing sponsorships, deals, and fans. On a larger scale, it also empowers problematic officials to continue their unfair behavior without question or reflection.

On top of this, not only did the ump’s ridiculous calls strip Serena of a fair game, but he also robbed Naomi (a huge Serena stan) of a clean win. This was a win that came amid Naomi’s own battles with sexism and racism as a biracial woman.

“But if there’s one thing this game showed,” Herman explains, “It’s that the solidarity and support shown by women for fellow women is getting us somewhere.” Despite her frustration with the ump’s calls, Serena made a point of congratulating Naomi and encouraging the crowd to cheer for her. As Serena later said, “I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman. They’re gonna be allowed to do that because of today.”

But if there’s one thing this game showed, it’s that the solidarity and support shown by women for fellow women — in this case, Black women continuing to stand by Black women — is getting us somewhere.

What happened this weekend proved that the frustrations and rage in women’s sport are reaching a fever pitch. There is no room, on or off the court for sexism, abuse, or inequality. It’s time for people (esp. men) to take women athletes seriously and treat them as equals.