The ITF finally got around to issuing a statement in support of its longtime chair umpire Carlos Ramos late Monday.
But it may well be making another statement by maintaining his next planned umpiring assignment.
Ramos, 47, is set to be one of the two chair umpires for the Davis Cup World Group semifinal tie between the USA and Croatia, set to begin Friday in Zadar, Croatia.
And, indeed, an ITF spokesperson confirmed to Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press that Ramos remains assigned to work that tie.
The Spanish- (and French-) speaking official from Portugal has chaired many high-profile Davis Cup ties, including Spain vs. Great Britain earlier this year and the Spain-Serbia quarterfinal last year.
On one side will be Croatia. On the other side will be the USTA, whose president and CEO Katrina Adams stood firmly behind Serena Williams in the wake of the events during Saturday’s women’s singles final.
Avoided social media
Journalist Miguel Seabra, a former umpire and fellow Portuguese who has been Ramos’s friend for decades, wrote in Tribuna Expresso that Ramos received hundreds of messages of support from friends, colleagues, players and former players.
Wisely, he avoided social media, and didn’t walk the streets in New York the next day.
Ramos wouldn’t answer specific questions about the incident, with rules preventing officials from doing so. (It might have been helpful, in this case, to have a pool reporter talk to him Saturday after the match, to at least lend some balance to a very one-sided situation. But it is what it is).
“I’m doing well, considering the circumstances,” he told Seabra. “It’s not a pleasant situation, but there’s no such thing as “à la carte” umpiring.”
Ramos and Adams, reunited
Ramos’s presence in the chair might make it a little uncomfortable for USTA president Adams, who normally would enjoy her camera-friendly front-row seat as she cheers on the American team.
In Adam’s eagerness to stand behind Williams last weekend, she essentially threw the umpire under the bus and all but said he was sexist.
She spoke to ESPN the following day, and had this to say.
“It’s a give and take on the court, when you’re talking about what’s transparent, or what’s judgment. A judgment call from the umpire. I would say that (Saturday) night it was unfortunate. We have to have consistencies. Because when you look at what the woman – in this case, Serena – is feeling … We watch the guys do this all the time. They’re badgering the umpire on the changeover, and nothing happens,” Adams said, inaccurately.
A private conversation among millions
And then, Adams told interviewers that Williams was not aware of the large microphones on the court. Nor was Williams aware, she said, of the routine practice of showing clips of goings-on during changeovers, after returns from commercial breaks.
“For Serena, she carried on maybe a little further than what she should have. It was on the changeover, she didn’t expect for it to be on camera, or on air at all. And so that was a conversation between she and him that was then publicized, was on air. And then she got penalized for it, in his judgment, of being abuse,” she said.
So, the former longtime WTA Tour doubles player said Williams believed she and the umpire were having a private conversation – in a Grand Slam final, with 23,000 fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium, microphones all around the cout, and networks broadcasting the match live around the world.
“All about gender equality”
“There’s no equality when it comes to what the men are doing to the chair umpires, and what the women are doing. And I think there has to be some consistency, across the board, at every level of officiating,” Adams said. “I’m all about gender equality. And I think when you look at the situation, is there conversations that will be imposed in the next weeks? We have to treat each other fairly and the same. And I know what Serena did, and her behaviour, was not welcome. It could have been a line where it should have been drawn.
“But when you look at Carlos, or the umpire in this particular situation, it’s a ‘judgment’ (Adams used air quotes) call, to give that last penalty, because she called him a thief. They’ve been called a lot worse.”
When the interviewers questioned her contention that that the code violation had been assessed merely because Williams called Ramos a “thief”, Adams did admit that Ramos “took a lot.”
“It’s a situation for him to say, ‘Hey, we’re getting out of hand here, let’s tone it down, or I’m going to have to … I think it would have (defused the situation). I think it’s a bond that they have in the communication, the way they communicate, and maybe not understanding that they can have that same conversation with the women. Because they have it with the guys all the time.”
Adams a two-term president
Adams, who turned 50 a few weeks ago, reached a high ranking in singles of No. 67 as a player. She was a top-10 doubles player who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 1989. And then, she accepted a job as a USTA national coach, and retired.
She was one of the commentators when the Tennis Channel first saw the light of day 15 years ago. The enterprising but under-experienced Adams admits she pushed her connections with her friends Venus and Serena, then top-two players in the world, to get her foot in the door.
She has a lot of titles: President and CEO of the USTA. Chairperson of the US Open. Chairperson of the U.S. Fed Cup team. Executive director of the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program. Chairperson of the ITF’s Fed Cup committee. Board of directors member for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Vice-president of the International Tennis Federation (one of three under president David Haggerty).
She also chairs the ITF’s new “Women in Sports” committee and the ITF’s Joint Media Commission.
Adams was a USTA vice-president in 2011-12, and a director-at-large on the organization’s board of directors from 2005-2010.
In January, 2015, Adams became the first former player, first African-American and the youngest person ever to become the president of the USTA. She succeeded Haggerty, who went on to the big job with the ITF.
Two years later, she was re-elected to an unprecedented second term. That term ends at the end of 2018.
It will be interesting to see what her next move is, and how the accomplished Adams manages the criticism she has received for her impassioned but factually flawed defence of her friend Williams.
First up, of course, the very good chance that she will come face to face with Ramos this weekend in Croatia.