Tennis sensation Serena Williams, it appears at face value, not only threw her toys out of the cot but nearly choked on her bib in losing the US Open crown to Japan player Naomi Osaka four days ago.

Undoubtedly Williams behaved abysmally when she lost the plot a few times amid heated disputes with umpire Carlos Ramos and, in doing so, did world women's tennis a huge favour in unearthing a maiden grand slam champion in Osaka.

But from where I'm watching, the 23-time American grand-slam champion is anything but a sore loser in drawing attention to misogyny.

In fact, on closer scrutiny, it's blatantly obvious she'll go down in history as a revolutionist who exposed the tennis old boy's network, yet again, for what it is — boorish bully boys hell bent on defining the rules of engagement in the female arena.


Not even the three-code violation "melt down", to the tune of NZ$26,000, from the US Tennis Association or calling umpire Ramos "a thief" can detract from Williams' perceived audacity to challenge the male-dominated Draconian rules that make mockery of the sport in the 21st century.

The outpouring of sympathy for the 36-year-old from current and former male players who have berated officials and got away with it has been overwhelming.

Retired American player Andy Roddick reportedly tweeted: "I've regrettably said worse and I've never gotten a game penalty."

Amen. Let's not forget multiple grand-slam winners in the mould of John McEnroe have gone on to make commercials and carve successful commentating careers in tennis despite their churlish history.

You can't help but admire Williams for taking the higher ground in "forfeiting" a grand slam final.

Did she throw that game for the sake of making valid points in trying to rescue the women's game from the dark ages?

Is she the Muhammad Ali of tennis?

In a post-match media conference, she acknowledged seeing male players subject umpires to varying degrees of profanity.


"I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say 'thief' and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark.

"He's never taken a game from a man because they said 'thief.' For me it blows my mind. But I'm going to continue to fight for women."

Williams, making a comeback from maternity leave, had diplomatically allowed French Tennis Federation honcho Bernard Guidicelli to persuade her to put away her black catsuit at Roland-Garros in June despite having worn it to combat life-threatening blood clots for a medical condition. That diplomacy also was evident in Williams hushing parochial fans booing Osaka, the sacrificial lamb.

Alize Cornet, suffers in the Aussie Open heat, but had copped a court violation in the US Open for slipping off her shirt after realising it was worn wrongly. Photo/Photosport
Alize Cornet, suffers in the Aussie Open heat, but had copped a court violation in the US Open for slipping off her shirt after realising it was worn wrongly. Photo/Photosport

French player Alize Cornet was handed a court violation in New York for readjusting her shirt after putting it on the wrong way around during a 10-minute heat break. This from a code that permits US Open men's champion Novak Djokovic baring his hairy chest at will in the humidity with multiple shirt swaps.

It's also difficult to go past umpire Mohamed Lahyani disembarking from his perch at Flushing Meadows to comfort Australian problem child Nick Kyrgios when juxtaposed to Ramos' hardline stance.

That is not to say Williams, also the subject of racist remarks and insinuations from commentators on her physique, didn't rob Osaka for the prosperity of women kind in downgrading the win to a hollow one.


In many respects it was more noble than Roger Federer when he stole the limelight from Rafael Nadal at the Aussie Open in 2009.

Ironically, Australian cartoonist Mark Knight, doodling for the Herald Sun in Melbourne, depicted Williams as a dummy-spitting, racquet smashing brat as the umpire appealed to Osaka: "Can you just let her win?"

While Knight has copped flak for taking his cartoon back into the 19th century depictions of dark-skinned people, what I found even more peculiar was his depiction of Osaka, of Japanese and Haitian extraction, as a fair-skinned, sparkling blonde waif.

I'm not one to reach for the race card at the best of times but one has to question the cartoonist's motives when he struggles to accurately depict two brown-skinned players.

Whether Osaka (shedding tears of joy or frustration?) sees the bigger picture is another matter for a 20-year-old to comprehend after she boldly declared all she had thought about was playing her idol, Williams, in the final, soon after unceremoniously dismantling Lesia Tsurenko, of Ukraine, 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinal.

Did Williams, who is targeted for dope tests more than any elite male professional, cheat after a confession from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, he was giving his protege hand signals?


Again I have watched poker-faced coaches of male and female mentors trying to make eye contacts with players for years. That doesn't mean Williams was watching Mouratoglou.

Why not simply allow it? The officials aren't the problem, the law makers are.

Closer to home, I have heard suggestions Williams is "used to having her way" because she packed a sad when she lost to Osaka in the second round of the ASB Classic in Auckland in early January this year.

For the record, Auckland weather is and has been "abhorrent" not just in the last classic but just about every other one so it's quite understandable why tennis internationals prefer to go to build-up tourneys across the ditch before the Aussie Open.

How Williams' tirade will change attitudes in New Zealand remains to be seen.

On Monday, White Ferns cricketer Katie Perkins revealed on TV1 News how she had unsuccessfully tried to play in a men's club competition to improve her game.


For someone who had two cricketing daughters, I can unequivocally say the younger one was more adroit because she was allowed to play alongside and against boys from primary school.

Auckland Cricket, in playing bat/pad to Perkin's full dispensation appeal, says the 30-year-old can only do that if women's premier club matches aren't on — that's twice in the season.

That smacks of tennis-type dogmatism and Netball New Zealand myopia that prevents Silver Ferns from plying their trade abroad.

It seems sometimes cantankerous behaviour can go a long way in highlighting disparities and dumb legislation.

Serena Williams consoles Naomi Osaka during the trophy ceremony after the women's final of the US Open tennis in New York last Sunday. Photo/AP
Serena Williams consoles Naomi Osaka during the trophy ceremony after the women's final of the US Open tennis in New York last Sunday. Photo/AP