Billie Jean King Defends Serena Williams After U.S. Open Meltdown, Addresses Tennis 'Double Standard'

Billie Jean King says Serena Williams was unfairly penalized at the U.S. Open. The tennis legend spoke out after Williams engaged in a heated argument with a chair umpire that resulted in her calling him a "thief" for stealing a point from her and later threatening that he will never be on another court of hers as long as he lives. A full game penalty was leveled against Williams in the eighth game after she continued to berate the official. Serena Wiliams ultimately lost to opponent Naomi Osaka, 6-2, 6-4, scoring the Japanese pro her first Grand Slam title.

King, who once the top-ranked American female tennis pro in the world, took to Twitter to remark on the stunning argument that occurred between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos at the Grand Slam match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York.

"Several things went very wrong during the @usopen Women's Finals today," King wrote. "Coaching on every point should be allowed in tennis. It isn't, and as a result, a player was penalized for the actions of her coach. This should not happen."

King went on to address what she sees as a double standard in the sports world.

"When a woman is emotional, she's 'hysterical' and she's penalized for it. When a man does the same, he's 'outspoken' & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same."
During the match, Williams demanded an apology from Ramos after he penalized her after alleging that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was making hand signals, which is a code violation in Grand Slam matches. According to CBS Sports, Williams claimed her coach was simply giving her a thumbs up and she demanded an apology from Ramos, saying she would never cheat.

"You owe me an apology!" Williams told Ramos. "I have never cheated in my life! I have a daughter and I stand for what's right for her. I don't cheat to win. I'd rather lose. I'm just letting you know."

Serena Williams goes off on judge at U.S. Open
Getty Images | Alex Pantling

An emotional Williams later warned Ramos, "You will never, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you're sorry."

Later, an upset Williams smashed her racket on the court after losing serve and was slapped with another violation and a point penalty for the sixth game. Williams called Ramosa a "thief" for taking a point from her, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Williams later complained about the ruling, saying, "There's a lot of men out here that have said a lot of things and because they are men that doesn't happen."

A third outburst prompted Ramos to give Williams yet another code violation, which lost the game and ended the match 5-3 for Naomi Osaka. The Japanese player was in tears as the angry crowd continued to boo after her win.

Billie Jean King congratulated Osaka for her win, tweeting that players like her have made tennis "an exciting place right now." But she has been a vocal supporter of Williams, recently defending the 36-year-old tennis star's "catsuit," which was banned at the French Open.

"The policing of women's bodies must end," King tweeted last month. "The 'respect' that's needed is for the exceptional talent. @serenawilliams brings to the game. Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies."