So this week, Australian cartoonist, Mark Knight, created a caricature of Serena Williams after her defeat at the US open last weekend.
The backlash on social media was instant. It was described as “Racist and sexist”. The reason being, because she has large lips, Osaka is portrayed as a white blonde, and has general references to cartoons made in the 1800’s, of “angry black women slaves”. So lets take that apart.
Large lips – now, this is a caricature, where every feature of a person or object is exaggerated. Her lips are much bigger than her opponent, and the umpire. This happens elsewhere, such as this caricature of Mick Jagger
Or this image of Spitting image. Do you remember this show? John Major was grey and dull, Paul Gascoigne was always drunk and crying, the Queen had an ape mouth, Tony Blair had a wide mouth, and Prince Charles had HUGE ears.
More recently we had Newzoids, where Boris Johnson had a mop for hair, Donald Trump had a cat for his hair, Alan Carr had HUGE teeth, and Benedict Cumberbatch had a 15 foot neck.
So the next point is that Osaka is white and blonde. Now, it is true that Osaka looks very white in this caricature, but if you look at Serena, she is not as dark as she is in real life too. As for her being blonde, during the match, she had blonde hair:
And now for the references to slaves and cartoons made during that time. Now, we are not living in the 1800’s, and there is no slavery anymore (well there is but not on the scale back then).
There is no reference in this picture to racism. It is simply a caricature of a woman having a HUGE tantrum on court. The calls for sexism in this photo are absolutely baffling. After all, she lost to a WOMAN. So that is real sexist?
So lets now go to the match itself. Serena is one set down, and in the second game of the second set. The umpire gives a code violation warning of coaching. Serena approached the umpire and said, very politely “if he gives me a thumbs up, he’s telling me to come on, we don’t have any code and I know you don’t know that, I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, I don’t cheat I’d rather lose, just letting you know”. All very polite in the words, but she was clearly angry.
She then lost the game to become 1-1 in the second set, and when sat down, brought up the issue with the umpire again, saying she understood why he would think she was cheating but she doesn’t cheat. Again, she was angry but fairly polite to the umpire and just wanting to get her point across
Then, at 3-1 up she lost the next game, and decided to smash her racquet on the ground. She receives a point penalty for racquet abuse. Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka is ignoring all of the escalating tension to just focus her mind on her own game
Then as the next game starts, the umpire announces “15 love” (because of the penalty) and this causes Serena to approach the umpire and say “I have a daughter and I stand by what’s right for her, I have never cheated in my life, you owe me an apology” in a rage, before returning to the court. She lost that game and back in the break, she starts on the umpire again, stating he was attacking here character, and he owes her an apology, and that he will never ever be on her court again as long as he lives. In a very angry tone, stating “You are the liar” She then demands an apology from him: “Say it, say you are sorry… then don’t talk to me” and went on and on, whilst the umpire just didn’t really react. Until seconds later when she said “you stole a point from me, you are a thief too”. This caused the umpire to give a code violation of verbal abuse, and gave her a game penalty (which adds one game to Naomi Osaka)
This now makes it 5-3 to Naomi, and as the game is about to start, it means that instead of Naomi serving, Serena has to serve, because of the game penalty. None of the players really knew this, so the umpire calls them both over and explains it to them. Serena then rants again at the umpire asking for an apology and decides to call the referee out. She cries at the referees claiming sexism and that many other men have done a lot worse but because she is a woman, they are taking it away from her. She then wins the next game and then goes back to the referees to shout at them again. it’s now 5-4 in the second set to Naomi. Serena loses the next game which means Naomi is the Grand Slam Champion.
Serena was quote gracious to Naomi and hugs her. But at the trophy celebration, poor Naomi, even though she won, the crowd were booing (although not at her) and this Katrina Adams stated “Perhaps this is not the finish we were looking for today”. The poor girl was in tears. She pulled her cap over her eyes.
So lets pull the game apart.
01. Cheating (ie coaching): She claims she was not cheating, yet she admitted that “if he gives me a thumbs up, it means to come on”. So firstly she is watching the coach. Secondly, the coach admitted after the event, that he was giving her signals but “everybody is doing it”. OK fair enough they are all doing it, but umpires cannot police everything all the time, I remember at school, everyone is being naughty but sometimes the teacher turns around and sees me making the faces and sends me against the wall. This time Serena, you just got caught out.
Even if she didn’t see the coaching, the umpire doesn’t know that. He cannot deduct points from the coach. They are part of one team trying to achieve one goal, to win the game. The umpire has to assume cheating and deduct points from the player.
02. The fact she has a daughter. How is this relevant in an argument about tennis? Don’t most people go on to become parents? That’s like saying “I own a house”, or “I have two eyes”.
03. The fact she is a woman. It is true that there have been a lot more outbursts from players which have gone unpunished, but it is not because you are a woman. Last year the same umpire gave Rafael Nadal two warnings for slow play, and gave Andy Murray a warning when he said it was “stupid umpiring”.
The referee was issuing penalties because of the complete disrespect she showed to the umpire. She could not handle the fact that Naomi was far superior in play, and Serena was losing. She acted like a spoilt child, and tried to throw every card at them, the mum card, the sexism card, and if it wasn’t for the fact that her opponent was half Japanese half Haitian, I bet she would have played the race card too. It’s interesting she played the sexism card, considering it meant she lost to a woman. Surely he would have been giving them BOTH code violations.
Serena stole, the most magical moment of Naomi’s life, and you can see that in the tears in the trophy ceremony. I cannot wait, to see her exit tennis, and exit the public arena. Congratulations Naomi, you are a true champion, and so humble. You will go on to be an ongoing champion. Here is the full video: