Billie Jean King defends Serena Williams at US Open and slams sexism in tennis

Billie Jean King

Tennis legend Billie Jean King has written a series of powerful tweets defending Serena Williams and slamming sexism in the sport, after controversy at the US open final on Sunday.

King, who holds 12 grand slam titles, criticised the conduct of the umpire after Williams was penalised for getting instructions from her coach during the match.

“When a woman is emotional, she’s “hysterical” and she’s penalized for it,” King wrote, “when a man does the same, he’s “outspoken” & there are no repercussions.”

During the final Williams discussed the penalty with the match official and repeatedly asked for an apology, and has since been fined $17,000 (around £13,000) for the incident.

The 36-year-old who holds 23 grand slam titles, a world record, received a code violation for coaching, a penalty point for racquet abuse and a game penalty for calling the umpire a “thief”.

Many pundits called out what they labelled as “sexism” towards Williams from the umpire.

BBC tennis presenter Sue Barker, said: “I’ve sat courtside watching the men ranting at umpires and they haven’t been given a violation.”

While the governing body for the sport, the WTA (the Women’s Tennis Association), made a statement which supported Williams in her protests.

“The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men versus women,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said in a statement.

“We do not believe that this was done last night.”

Billie Jean King serves as grand marshal of the annual Pride Parade on June 24, 2018 in New York City. (Kena Betancur/Getty)

King, who is 74 years old, wrote: “Several things went very wrong during the US Open Women’s Finals today. Coaching on every point should be allowed in tennis. It isn’t, and as a result, a player was penalized for the actions of her coach. This should not happen,”

The tennis legend also said “thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”

But not everyone agreed with the label of “sexism” about the decision.

US tennis player Serena Williams and her husband Alexis Ohanian arrive for the wedding ceremony of Britain’s Prince Harry. (Photo credit: IAN WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

British former player Andrew Castle said Simon should be “ashamed” of his comments.

“The accusation of sexism which was levelled by Serena Williams in her press conference after the woman’s final needs to be backed up,” he told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.

“Otherwise she could be accused of bringing the game into disrepute.”

Naomi Osaka, who represents Japan, beat Williams in the final of the grand slam with a score of 6-2, 6-4.