Chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who was at the center of controversy in the 2018 U.S. Open women's final for making several controversial calls against Serena Williams, will not be officiating any matches involving either Serena or Venus Williams during this year's U.S. Open.
"We've decided that there are over 900 other matches, and Carlos, for 2019, will not be in the chair for a Williams sisters match," U.S. Tennis Association executive Stacey Allaster told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). "We want the attention of the competition to be on the athletes."
Ramos first earned Williams' ire after giving her a warning for receiving coaching signals from the stands. He then penalized her a point for breaking her racket and later penalized a second point for verbal abuse after Williams referred to him as a "thief."
According to Jenna Lane of SI.com, Williams "denied his claim that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was cheating by communicating with her during the match. Mouratoglou later said he was sending her signals, but Williams said she didn't see them."
Williams ultimately lost the match to Naomi Osaka, 6-2, 6-4, and the confrontation between her and Ramos ignited a debate over whether he had overstepped his bounds and overreacted during the match and whether Williams was justified in her reaction.
She also said after the match that she felt Ramos' decision to penalize her for calling him a thief was sexist, per ESPN:
"You definitely can't go back in time. I can't sit here and say I wouldn't say he's a thief because I thought he took a game from me. But I've seen other men call other umpires several things. I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say 'thief' and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He's never taken a game from a man because they said 'thief.'"
Given their history, it isn't surprising the U.S. Open decided against having Ramos officiate any of her matches. That pairing would instantly become a huge storyline and threaten to overshadow the match itself, a controversy the event would assuredly prefer avoiding for a second year in a row.