It is unclear when Serena Williams will return to action after her clash with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during her loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday in the U.S. Open final.
But Ramos, who drew both sharp criticism and vehement support in the aftermath of the final, will be back on duty in Zadar, Croatia, on Friday for the three-day Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and Croatia.
Katrina Adams, the United States Tennis Association president who was critical of Ramos’ officiating in the Open final, is in Zadar and is expected to attend the matches. But Jim Courier, the U.S. captain, said he had no issue with Ramos being back in the chair.
“Carlos is experienced and respected by our team,” Courier said. “We foresee no problems with officiating over the upcoming weekend.”
Ramos, one of tennis’ most experienced umpires, received the Davis Cup semifinal assignment more than a month ago. International Tennis Federation officials said Wednesday that there was no question of changing the assignment. But they did say they had spoken with Ramos to ensure that he felt ready to work again after the furor in New York, in which Ramos cited Williams for three code violations, the third of which cost her a game late in her 6-2, 6-4 loss to Osaka.
Tour-level chair umpires are forbidden by the rules and by their contracts to publicly discuss matches that they or their colleagues work. But Ramos, a 47-year-old Portuguese, did give a brief comment to the Portuguese newspaper Tribuna Expresso on Tuesday.
“I’m fine, given the circumstances,” Ramos said, according to the newspaper. “It is a delicate situation, but umpiring ‘a la carte’ does not exist. Don’t worry about me.”
But there has been concern within the umpiring community about the lack of immediate support for Ramos from tennis officials. Williams’ first code violation was for coaching, which her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, has acknowledged he was attempting to do with hand signals. Her second was for equipment abuse after smashing her racket, and the third was for verbal abuse after calling Ramos “a thief” for having penalized her a point.
Williams said sexism was a factor, saying that men’s players are given more latitude to argue with officials. Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA, which governs women’s tennis, released a statement after the match that indirectly supported Williams’ claim, saying “there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs. women.”
Adams, in comments to ESPN the day after the match, also complained about a double standard, although she was more measured in an interview with CBS on Tuesday.
“At the end of the day, Serena could have handled it a little bit differently,” Adams said. “She’s passionate, and she was speaking out. And I think for Ramos, he was a little bit defensive at that point and was fed up, as opposed to saying, ‘OK, let’s get back to business.’”
Such criticism of a chair umpire from governing bodies is highly unusual.
“What made me sad was those two governing bodies putting into question the official’s job, and they didn’t support Carlos or officiating in general,” said Enric Molina, a former chair umpire and head of officiating at the ITF who is now an agent. “I think their responsibility at the end of the day is to stand for what’s right for the sport, and officiating carries a number of good values of our sport: fairness, equality, sportsmanship, respect, and so on.
“That was a really good opportunity that they had to highlight those values and send the right message to the fans. I work with the players and admire Serena for being such a great champion and role model in many ways, but this time she didn’t get it right. And there’s no problem with that; it makes her more human.”
Williams was later fined a total of $17,000 by the tournament for the three offenses, and the ITF issued a statement that expressed support for all three of Ramos’ rulings and defended his “professionalism and integrity.” But that statement was not released until Monday, nearly 48 hours after the match had ended, because officials were working through the wording.
The delay did not sit well with many umpires, and The Times of London reported that they were considering, among several options, refusing to officiate at Williams’ matches until she apologized to Ramos. There has also been renewed discussion about the possibility of an umpires’ union and an umpires’ spokesperson at major tournaments when disputes or confusion arise — “like there is in other sports, to explain the rules and decisions,” Molina said.
Molina and other former umpires said Wednesday, however, that a boycott of Williams’ matches was highly unlikely.
“I would put my hand on fire that it doesn’t come from the professional umpires,” said Felix Torralba, a former gold-badge chair umpire for the WTA Tour from Spain. “It might be a comment in a room of people related to officiating, but not from people that work the tour, that are international officials. I would doubt that. I’ve spoken to colleagues. I don’t believe that.”