Martina Navratilova Sounds Off On Serena Williams’ Sexism Claims: ‘She Had The Right Message, But It Wasn’t The Right Time’

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Serena Williams sent the tennis world and her fanbase into a tizzy over the weekend after she had a massive outburst on the tennis court at the US Open Women’s finals. Serena had it out with a chair umpire and incurred three different penalties during her second set in her match: first for on-court coaching, then for smashing her racket in frustration and thirdly for verbal abuse toward chair umpire Carlos Ramos. That last violation incurred a game penalty for Serena, which was a rare move for Ramose during a Grand Slam final.

Serena later said that had a man had the same reactions on the court that they would not have been penalized and she called Ramos a thief for stealing a point from her. While Serena later apologizes and said she was standing up for women’s rights and equality in sportsmanship, 18-time Grand Slam singles winner Martina Navratilova said that her message came at the wrong time. 

Serena Williams
Serena Williams (R) of the United States argues with referee Brian Earley (L) during her Women’s Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA) (Getty Images)

Navratilova spoke to the New York Times in an op-ed about the situation. 

“Had I behaved like that on a tennis court, I would have expected to get everything that happened to Serena,” she shared.  It should’ve ended right there with the point warning, but Serena just couldn’t let it go.”

She added, “She completely had the right message about women’s inequality, but it wasn’t the right time to bring it up.”

“Ms. Williams was absolutely marvelous toward Ms. Osaka after the match. A true champion at her best. But during the match — well, enough said. The way Ms. Osaka carried herself both during and after the match was truly inspiring. So is there a double standard in tennis? We do need to take a hard look at our sport, without any rose-colored glasses, and root out any inconsistencies and prejudices that might be there. Tennis is a very democratic sport, and we need to make sure it stays that way,” she continued. “But it is also on individual players to conduct themselves with respect for the sport we love so dearly. Because we all look so forward to the next time Ms. Williams and Ms. Osaka play each other; hopefully the drama will come from their magnificent shots and their fierce competitiveness — two athletes showing us how it is done, inspiring us all in the process.”

Check out Navratilova’s full op-ed at the New York Times. 

WATCH: Serena Williams’ Daughter Rocks Adorable Mini Version Of Her US Open Tutu!

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