Sexism in Women’s Professional tennis

The unfortunate truth is that sexism still exists in women’s professional tennis. In 2016,former Indian Wells Tournament CEO Raymond Moore said that the Women Tennis Association (WTA)was a lucky organization to ride on the coattails of men. He continued by saying that WTA should go down every night on their knees and thank God that Rodger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born. Such remarks portray the extent of the issue.


The Osaka- Williams match was shadowed by strong evidence of sexism. While on court, chair umpire Carlos Ramos cited Williams three times for code violations. Osaka ended up winning the match despite Serena’s allegations that what Ramos did was sexist. She claimed Ramos treated her differently from the male players. This caused an uproar in and outside the tennis world.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) in their statement said, “Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires and his decisions were therefore in accordance with the relevant rules.” This showed that the body was not willing to look in the matter.

Mark knight, a cartoonist drew a cartoon sketch of Serena Williams which depicted her as a large crying baby stomping out of the court. On another end the umpire is seen telling Naomi Osaka, “can you just let her win?”

Mark Knight’s cartoon on the Osaka- Serena match

No male tennis player has ever been depicted the same way in a cartoon. Knight not only mocked the match but also insulted William and Osaka.

Serena Williams is not the only victim. French pro-player Alize Cornet also received a code violation for fixing her top during a 10 minute break. The male umpire gave her a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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Alize Cornet fixing her top

This happened despite the fact that majority of male players change their shirts on court. For instance,pro player John Isner changed his shirt 11 times during the three plus hour match against Juan Martin del Porto. Also in a Wimbledon match a day later, champion Djokovic sat shirtless for several minutes.

In tennis some physical attributes are considered necessary. Consider the case of Marion Bartoli who after winning the 2013 Wimbledon final was insulted by radio presenter John Inverdale. He said,” she’s never going to be a looker.” Inverdale later claimed that he was not mocking her and if it seemed so, it was only in a nice way.

Another sexism instance in terms of looks is when Serena wore a cat suit at the 2018 French Open. The suit was designed to help prevent blood clots that had endangered her health after giving birth. She was later barred from wearing it again and more restrictive dress code was introduced. The federation’s president explained the cat suit ban saying,” I think sometimes we go too far.”

Serena Williams at the 2018 French Open

While in most tournaments men and women play the best three sets, others like Grand Slam, French Open, Australia and US Open only men are allowed to play five sets.

Professional athletes regardless of gender are professionals because of strength, resilience and hard work. This therefore means the rules of the game should be fair.

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