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9/12/2018 9:00:08 AM

Serena 'out of line' but both sides share blame: Tennis great Billie Jean King

Former world number one Billie Jean King has softened her initial stance on the controversy over Serena Williams, who was "totally out of line" when she vehemently disputed calls by chair umpire Carlos Ramos during Saturday's U.S. Open final.

Serena Williams smashes her racket. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY SPORTS

Ramos, however, could have prevented the affair had he communicated better and given Williams a "soft warning" instead of a code violation when he saw her coach Patrick Mouratoglou giving signals during the match, King said.

Williams was issued a warning, point and then game penalty after she argued with Ramos during the final, which was won 6-2 6-4 by Japan's Naomi Osaka.

"Serena was out of line. There's no question," King told CNN on Tuesday. "No one is saying she was a good sport. If they are they are crazy.

"She was totally out of line. She knows it."

King's remarks to CNN were something of a walk back of her earlier comments when she said in a Washington Post editorial that Williams had faced down sexism with her protests.

She also did not criticise Williams' on-court behaviour.

King, however, said Williams was not aware she had been handed a first violation and was surprised to have a point taken from her when she received a second for later smashing her racquet.

The loss of the point prompted Williams to call Ramos a "thief", which led to a third violation for verbal abuse that resulted in the umpire issuing a game penalty, although he could have prevented the incident from escalating, King said.

"The point is he (aggravated) the situation. 'I'm not attacking your character,' is the most important thing he could have said," King told CNN.

"I think everything would have been different."

King said she hoped the incident would bring about needed changes to the sport, including allowing for direct communication between the umpire and the fans over a loudspeaker and ending the ban on coaching during Grand Slam matches.

"Crisis creates an opportunity to get it right," she said.

‘One of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time’

Naomi Osaka became Japan's and Haiti's first Grand Slam singles champion after she thumped Serena Williams 6-2 6-4 in a controversial U.S. Open final on Saturday.

In the end it was Osaka making history but on a day of bizarre events her victory will only be a footnote to what is sure to go down as one of the most infamous matches ever played at Flushing Meadows.

Standing on the podium waiting to be handed her trophy and a winner's cheque for USD 3.8 million, Osaka heard only boos as an angry crowd took out their frustration on Portuguese chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who stood to the side.

“I know everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this,” said Osaka. "It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S. Open finals ... I’m really grateful I was able to play with you.”

With Osaka in control of the match after taking the first set, Ramos sent Williams into a rage when he handed the 23-time Grand Slam champion a code violation in the second game of the second set after he spotted the American’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou making some hand signals from the player’s box.

A string of bad behaviour followed from Williams and she went on to incur a point penalty for smashing her racket before being slapped with a game penalty at 4-3 down after she launched into a verbal attack against Ramos, accusing him of being “a liar” and “a thief for stealing a point from me”.

The game penalty put Osaka 5-3 up and the 20-year-old Haitian-Japanese kept her cool to pull off the win.

Naomi Osaka reacts after match point against Serena Williams. (Reuters)

Mouratoglou later admitted he had been coaching but in another strange twist an unrepentant Williams continued to deny she had received any advice and was instead a victim of sexism.

“I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality and for all kinds of stuff,” said Williams.

“For me to say 'thief' and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark.”

Before Williams's meltdown Osaka had already put the 36-year-old under rarely seen pressure.

Osaka had given Williams plenty of respect but no other concessions as she grabbed the early break on a double fault by her idol for a 2-1 first set lead she would not let go.

Playing on tennis's biggest stage in her first Grand Slam final the enormity of the moment did not phase Osaka while Williams, contesting her 31st major final, looked unsteady.

Williams's implosion was not a totally unfamiliar sight for tennis fans, who watched a similar meltdown nine years earlier on Arthur Ashe.

Playing the semi-finals against Kim Clijsters, Williams flew into a rage after a line judge called her for a foot-fault leaving a match point down to the Belgian.

Williams launched into an expletive-laced rant at the official. She waved her racket in the lineswoman’s direction and then shook a ball in her clenched fist as she threatened to “shove it down” her throat.

Organisers fined her USD 10,500 (£8,126) at the end of the tournament for her unsportsmanlike behaviour and was later fined an additional USD 175,000 and put on probation for two years by the Grand Slam Committee.

Williams could face further sanctions for her actions on Saturday against Osaka, the WTA issuing a statement that they will be looking into the incident./.

VNF/Reuters  
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