A quick YouTube search of any prominent male tennis player followed by “tennis match freakout” will get you at least a couple pages of results in which umpires have little to no reaction.
John McEnroe, a man often considered to be among the greatest tennis players of all time, practically made a brand for himself in the 1980s with his on-court antics.
So when Naomi Osaka’s U.S. Open victory was overshadowed by an umpire’s strict enforcement of the rules toward Serena Williams in the match, it was unsurprising to see backlash on social media against the perceived double standard.
“I’ve said far worse”, McEnroe said in an interview with ESPN when talking about the Williams incident. “She’s right about the guys being held to a different standard, there’s no question.”
It’s a double standard that gets reinforced by the media. When the New York Post tweets out a headline like “Serena has mother of all meltdowns in U.S. Open Final loss,” about this story, but tweets out a headline like “Yankees rally for win after Boone gets ejected for arguing a strike,” about the Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone, it’s hard not to notice.
It was particularly disappointing in this instance, because when Williams stood up against harsh treatment that her male counterparts often miss, the story shifted from what it should have been about: Osaka’s win.
Osaka beat her hero, the reason she got into tennis in the first place. It should have been her day. But the story got hijacked by an umpire with a damaged ego.