The International Tennis Federation has released a statement defending umpire Carlos Ramos for his decision to hit Serena Williams with a game penalty during her women's U.S. Open final defeat to Naomi Osaka on Saturday.
Williams was fined $17,000 for three code violations, per CNN's Elliot C. McLaughlin, one of which was after she referred to Ramos as a "thief," but the ITF said their representative "acted at all times with professionalism and integrity":
Osaka lifted the crown in her maiden Grand Slam final appearance following a convincing 6-2, 6-4 win over Williams, after which the scenes in New York were marred by the furore involving Williams and Ramos.
McLaughlin explained Ramos' first warning to Williams came after he deemed that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had given the former world No. 1 a signal that equated to illegal coaching.
The 36-year-old was then given a point penalty for smashing her racquet on the floor before finally being docked a game for her "thief" comment, in which Williams said Ramos had "stolen a point" from her. ESPN UK posted footage of Williams' post-match comments, where she alluded to suspicions of sexism:
But the ITF has finally posted a robust defence of its umpire in the face of divided opinion, some feeling Ramos carried out his job by the letter of the law while others agree Williams has an argument to fight.
Former professional Anna Keothavong agreed that while sexism is an issue in the sport, Ramos was just doing his job on this occasion:
It's the second Grand Slam final in succession that Williams has lost after she fell to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon earlier this summer, and Osaka was clearly her superior at Flushing Meadows.
Sky News noted Ramos clashed with Serena's sister, Venus, at the 2016 French Open for a similar accusation of illegal coaching, which the elder Williams sibling denied also.
As far as Osaka was concerned, at least, she had won her first Grand Slam fair and square, although it's highly likely the controversial circumstances smudged Saturday's memory somewhat.
The Japanese star appeared on Today to recap her first major final and the unfortunate events that have followed, remarking that she was saddened at first, not knowing whether boos were being directed at her:
One could argue Osaka would have beaten Williams even without any of the penalties on Saturday, but the ITF has stood out in defence of its referee to establish a line in the sand of sorts.
To do so infers Williams acted wrongly in her actions and was therefore right to be fined also, though it remains to be seen whether the 23-time major winner will come around to that reasoning.