Serena Williams US Open final furore: The key questions still unanswered

Vicki Hodges
The Telegraph
Will Serena still continue with her coach Patrick Mouratoglou after US Open debacle? - Getty Images
Will Serena still continue with her coach Patrick Mouratoglou after US Open debacle? - Getty Images

The clear up at Flushing Meadows is done and dusted but the fall-out from the controversial US Open women's final rumbles on three days later.

Serena Williams has resumed her motherhood duties, posting a picture of herself on Instagram overnight cuddling up on the sofa with daughter Olympia seemingly in front of the TV. 

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It is a calmer and serene picture than the one witnessed on the Arthur Ashe Stadium on Saturday night during defeat to Naomi Osaka.

While her behaviour has been roundly criticised in some quarters and praised in others, the 23-times grand slam champion is attempting to return to normality. But there are so many issues and questions that still need to be answered.

Has Serena's relationship with her coach reached point of no return?

Patrick Mouratoglou has coached Serena Williams since 2012 and during that time has assisted in 11 of her 23 major successes. It's a partnership which has yielded great success but hasn't been without its own dramas and hiccups. 

<span>Patrick Mouratoglou and Serena Williams have worked together for six years </span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Patrick Mouratoglou and Serena Williams have worked together for six years Credit: Getty Images

The Frenchman admitted to coaching Serena from the stands on Saturday, a moment that was picked up by umpire Carlos Ramos and led to a code violation that rattled Serena and drew the 'I would rather lose that cheat' defence.

Mouratoglou, who also works as an analyst for ESPN, has a tendency to speak before he thinks. His frankness and openness are a dream to journalists but the timing and honestly he shares with the media can backfire.

Questioning her decision to play both singles and doubles at this year's French Open in her first grand slam since the birth of her first child last September, Serena put a media ban on the 48-year-old at Wimbledon.

"We're trying something new," Serena said. Although Mouratoglou saw things differently. “I made that commitment to not speak,” he had said. “For her to win Wimbledon is much more important than my freedom of expression.”

<span>Mouratoglou admitted to the press he had coached Serena mid-match before he had discussed the matter with her</span> <span>Credit: Amazon Prime </span>
Mouratoglou admitted to the press he had coached Serena mid-match before he had discussed the matter with her Credit: Amazon Prime

Last month Serena revealed Mouratoglou had told her to stop breastfeeding to improve her tennis. It didn't go down well. “It’s absolutely hard to take from a guy. He’s not a woman, he doesn’t understand that connection, that the best time of the day for me was when I tried to feed her."

His behaviour in New York was the reason why Serena landed herself in hot water to begin with. Speaking to the press and fessing up to his conduct before having the good grace to apologise to Serena was ill-advised. How can they recover this situation if the trust and communication has been broken?

When will Serena return to the court?

In Mouratoglou's first utterings to ESPN straight after Osaka's maiden victory, the 48-year-old said Serena would "never recover" from her emotional US Open final defeat. A comment he later downgraded to "it will take a long time to recover".

Where does she go from here? Usually Serena winds down her schedule after the final grand slam. In years gone by she doesn't have a point to prove, certainly doesn't need the ranking points nor financial gain. But this season has been a different fight altogether. As the 36-year-old says at every available moment, what she is doing is "for all the working mums out there". 

<span>Serena accused Carlos Ramos of being a 'liar' and a 'thief'</span> <span>Credit: USA Today </span>
Serena accused Carlos Ramos of being a 'liar' and a 'thief' Credit: USA Today

Since March 19, where her ranking had dropped to 491 in the world, Serena has clawed her way to world No 16 off the back of reaching back-to-back slam finals.

Currently she stands at No 11 on the race to Singapore leaderboard with the top eight players at the end of the year competing at the WTA Finals next month.

To qualify for the event, Serena must compete in upcoming tournaments to secure the ranking points needed to lift her into the top eight. Intriguingly the next Premier event on the WTA calendar is in Tokoyo next week. While it is unlikely Serena would turn up in Osaka's back garden so to speak, Serena is more likely to wait until the end of the month and the next Premier Mandatory tournament in Beijing. 

Why did the ITF take so long before backing Ramos?

The widely-shared view from those inside Arthur Ashe on Saturday evening was that Carlos Ramos had treated Serena Williams unfairly. "Worst refereeing I've ever seen...the worst!!' was Andy Roddick's take before he softened his stance to 'common sense should have prevailed in my opinion'.

Roddick wasn't alone in throwing Ramos under a bus. Katrina Adams, the chairman of the board and president for USTA followed her support of Serena's 'classy' reaction during the post-match on court presentation to say on ESPN that there has to be consistency with umpires.

It wasn't until Monday, 48 hours after the final that the world governing body offered their support to the chair umpire at the storm of the debate.

Their initial response had been to steer clear of getting involved, choosing not to comment on Ramos' performance as they do not control the grand slams. Yet seemingly in view of the attack the Portuguese was put under they went public with their view and put a metaphoric arm around the shoulder of the official.

"Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis. Mr Ramos' decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the US Open's decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences.

"It is understandable that this high profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate. At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity."

Will Serena apologise for her behaviour?

It looks highly unlikely now. As far as Serena is concerned she was the victim of sexist behaviour by Ramos and possibly feels that she does not need to offer an apology for her subsequent heated response.

Williams was fined £13,100 for code violations that included calling Ramos a 'liar' and 'thief' but the WTA have supported the American's claims and called for equality within the sport.

"The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs. women. We do not believe that this was done last night."

Should on-court coaching be allowed at the grand slams?

Another talking point that arose from WTA CEO Steve Simon's statement was the debate over on-court coaching.

Outside of the majors, women players can call their coaches on court during the change of ends to discuss tactics and for motivational chats.

In some cases they are highly beneficial and can help switch momentum. Such rules do not apply at the four grand slams where players are forbidden to receive coaching mid-match. Serena does not receive on-court coaching outside the majors which is why she was so dumbfounded by Ramos' initial court violation. 

It is easy to see why women players could fall foul of such a rule when at 80 per cent of tournaments, players can have a free and frank discussion with their coach.

Why can't the rule be applied and utilised if need be at the four slams? If anything it could add to the viewer's enjoyment and to let spectators understand and appreciate a little more the mental battles these players experience throughout the course of a match.

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