Former world number one Billie Jean King has softened her initial stance on the controversy over Serena Williams, who was “totally out of line” when she vehemently disputed calls by chair umpire Carlos Ramos during Saturday’s US Open final.
Ramos, however, could have prevented the affair had he communicated better and given Williams a ‘soft warning’ instead of a code violation when he saw her coach Patrick Mouratoglou giving signals during the match, King said.
“Serena was out of line. There’s no question,” King told CNN on Tuesday.
“No one is saying she was a good sport. If they are they are crazy. “She was totally out of line. She knows it.”
King’s remarks to CNN were something of a walk back of her earlier comments when she said in a Washington Post editorial that Williams had faced down sexism with her protests.
She also did not criticise Williams’ on-court behavior.
King, however, said Williams was not aware she had been handed a first violation and was surprised to have a point taken from her when she received a second for later smashing her racquet.
The loss of the point prompted Williams to call Ramos a “thief”, which led to a third violation for verbal abuse that resulted in the umpire issuing a game penalty, although he could have prevented the incident from escalating, King said.
The incident sparked another social media storm on Monday when a cartoon was published in an Australian newspaper depicting Williams with exaggerated features, which civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson among others described as “racist”.
The Herald Sun, owned by News Corp, defied allegations of racism on Wednesday when it reprinted the cartoon on its front page, attempting to portray the controversy as a matter of freedom of speech.
Ramos, meanwhile, has made his first public statement since the Open, saying he was “good” despite the firestorm of controversy.
“I am good, under the circumstances,” Ramos was quoted as saying in Portugal’s Tribuna Expresso.
“It’s an unhappy situation but a la carte refereeing doesn’t exist. “Don’t you worry about me!”