Former leading umpire Richard Ings has backed Carlos Ramos against allegations of sexism and other improprieties in the wake of Serena Williams’ US Open final defeat.
Williams was docked a game in the crucial second set of her match against Naomi Osaka for calling the experienced Ramos a “thief” – and she used her subsequent post-match press conference to call her penalty “sexist”.
Her stance was swiftly backed by the WTA Tour’s chief executive Steve Simon, and US great Billie-Jean King, both of whom also questioned the initial code violation handed to Williams for on-court coaching.
But Ings, who penalised John McEnroe a game during a match against Boris Becker in 1987, hailed Ramos for his decisions and said he umpired the match “absolutely perfectly”.
Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, Ings said: “Carlos Ramos is an umpire with 40 years of experience.
“He handled that match absolutely perfectly. He saw violations and he had the courage of his convictions to call them when he saw them.
“I support him 110 per cent. It was one of the best officiating jobs that I’ve seen in years.”
The International Tennis Federation has said nothing on the incident other than to state it does not control the Grand Slams.
Former British tennis number one Annabel Croft said that, while she had sympathy for Williams, her claim that she had been treated differently because she is a woman was wide of the mark.
“I definitely feel sympathy for her because I was actually commentating on the match and I witnessed the whole thing unfolding and it was incredibly dramatic,” Croft told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“But Carlos Ramos is not, I don’t believe, sexist. He’s a very strict, very decisive umpire, who takes nothing from any opponent whether they’re male or female.
“I’ve seen him giving time violations to Rafael Nadal out there on the court many, many times, but he’s someone who just plays it by the rule book.
“It doesn’t matter who is on the other side of the net, what icon they are, what status they are in the game, he will just play it by the rules.”
Great Britain Fed Cup captain Anne Keothavong also suggested Williams was in the wrong, tweeting: “Sexism is a problem in the wider picture of tennis but I don’t believe the decisions Carlos Ramos made that night had anything to do with it.”
Naomi Osaka, who won the match to claim her first grand slam title, had to be comforted by Williams on the podium as loud jeers erupted around the stadium.
Talking to the Today show on NBC, Osaka said: “I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me, or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted.
“And then I also could sympathise because I’ve been a fan of Serena my whole life, and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win. I was just really emotional.”
Osaka blocked out what was going on around her as she tried to focus on winning the match, and has not yet had a chance to watch the footage back.
She said: “I can’t really form an opinion right now. For sure I want to watch everything and I want to know what happened because this was one of the biggest things that happened to me.”