The United States tennis boss who defended Serena Williams over the infamous US Open meltdown has been overheard apologising to the umpire at the centre of the scandal.
Chair umpire Carlos Ramos found himself in the middle of a firestorm after issuing Williams with a series of code violations in the American’s loss to Naomi Osaka in the New York final.
Williams was given three code violations by Ramos in her straight-set loss to Japan’s Osaka, with the American player and critics arguing she wasn’t treated the same as some male players.
The American was initially outraged at receiving a code violation for coaching, insisting she had not taken guidance from her box, and then picked up a point penalty for racquet abuse before a prolonged tirade at Ramos resulted in Williams being docked a game for verbal abuse.
Nevertheless, a statement from USTA chairman of the board and president Katrina Adams opted to focus on Williams’ actions during the post-match presentation, when she urged booing spectators to stop heckling and acknowledge Osaka’s significant achievement.
“What Serena did on the podium today showed a great deal of class and sportsmanship,” said Adams.
“This was Naomi’s moment, and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it. That was a class move from a true champion.
The USTA president’s response was at odds with large sections of the sport, with the International Tennis Federation defending Ramos for his actions during the final.
Now, as the umpire gets set to officiate the USA in their Davis Cup tie against Croatia, Ms Adams has been overheard backtracking on her initial defence of Williams, with a belated apology to Ramos.
Associated Press journalist Andrew Dampf says the USTA president and CEO took time to say sorry to Ramos on the sidelines of the Davis Cup draw ceremony.
A USTA spokesman said Adams was not speaking to media, while Ramos was not available for questions.
The men on the United States’ Davis Cup team are treading very carefully over Williams’ insinuation that sexism played a role in the code violations she received during the US Open final.
Then again, Steve Johnson, Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison are about to come face to face with Ramos, who is also handling their best-of-five semifinal against Croatia this weekend.
“It’s been polarised and in some ways politicised,” US captain Jim Courier told The Associated Press on Thursday.
“But we have no doubt that Carlos was just enforcing the rules as he sees them.”
The American players poured cold water on insinuations Ramos acted in a sexist way towards Williams.
“Look, I don’t want this to come out the wrong way,” Johnson said.
“But he enforced rules that have been enforced on me over the years.
“I’ve never been called for coaching, but the racket abuse, the verbal abuse,” Johnson added.
“That’s just part of the sport. I think a lot of it maybe got over-amplified because it was the finals of the U.S. Open.”
Courier said there was nothing to discuss with his team over Ramos.
“We’re here to play; Carlos is here to umpire; and we don’t expect anything out of the ordinary,” Courier said.
The US players were also reluctant to criticise the umpire over what has become one of the most controversial finals in grand slam memory.
“It’s hard to say one side or the other without causing a big stir,” Harrison said.
“In a situation where we know Serena is unbelievable; she’s iconic; and we know that Carlos is there because he’s worthy of being there for those matches.
“I know Carlos and I know he’s not looking to put himself in a difficult position. I truly believe he was trying to do what he felt like was right at the time and always in heated situations it’s going to be a very sticky, sticky spot whenever it’s in a Grand Slam final like that.”
Against Croatia, Johnson will face Borna Coric in Friday’s opening singles match, followed by Cilic versus Davis Cup debutant Frances Tiafoe.
In Saturday’s doubles, Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic will face Bryan and Harrison. The reverse singles are on Sunday.
The winner will meet either France or Spain in the final.
The Americans are missing their top two players: No. 10 John Isner is staying home while his wife awaits the birth of their child, and Sock hurt his hip en route to winning the U.S. Open doubles title with Bryan.
“The one thing we know about Davis Cup is that rankings rarely matter,” Courier said.
“Davis Cup is highly unpredictable and playing for your country can affect people in different ways, shapes and forms.”