The International Tennis Federation has backed umpire Carlos Ramos in the row over his handling of the US Open final, saying he acted with “professionalism and integrity”.
The experienced Portuguese official has found himself at the centre of a storm involving accusations of sexism and racism over the way he treated Serena Williams.
Williams was docked a game in the crucial second set of her match against Naomi Osaka for calling the experienced Ramos a “thief” having previously received two code violations – 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.
Having initially said it would not comment, the ITF, the world governing body, later released a statement in support of Ramos’ decision-making.
The statement read: “Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis. Mr Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the US Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences.
“It is understandable that this high profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate. At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”
Former umpire Richard 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.”
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.”
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.”
Writing in the New York Times, Martina Navratilova criticised Williams for her behaviour, saying: “It’s difficult to know, and debatable, whether Ms Williams could have gotten away with calling an umpire a thief if she were a male player. But to focus on that, I think, is missing the point.
“If, in fact, the guys are treated with a different measuring stick for the same transgressions, this needs to be thoroughly examined and must be fixed. But we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behaviour that no one should be engaging in on the court.”
Osaka, for whom this was a 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, the 20-year-old 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.”
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.”
Toni Nadal, formerly the coach of his nephew Rafael Nadal, was penalised for coaching several times and believes Williams was harshly treated.
He said: “There are some umpires who seem to enjoy being protagonists rather than to try to make the match unfold without this kind of incident. There are others who understand, however, that this measure is somewhat relative and they are more inclined to warn you before punishing you.
“I won fame for talking to my nephew from the box during the matches, and on occasion the referees told Rafael, ‘Tell your uncle to shut up’, or they showed me with their eyes that they were vigilant. It’s always been absurd to me that the coach cannot give a shout to his player.”
Nadal, though, did not excuse Williams’ reaction, saying: “It can be understood it was a moment of maximum stress for the player and that she felt impotent in a final that was becoming frankly uphill.
“What is difficult to understand, however, is that an athlete of the magnitude and prestige of the American cannot control their nerves on the court and be carried away by their emotions. You have to demand the good behaviour of the players on the court. About that I think there is no argument.”