Lessons Learned from the US Open Finals
Whether you watch tennis or not, it’s been hard to avoid the discussion surrounding the women’s US Open Finals results between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. The match was historic for both women and will be remembered for years to come.
We’d rather not go into who was right and wrong regarding the penalties Serena received but instead discuss the powerful moments that occurred after the match and the learning lessons we took away from it.
1. Unfortunately, double standards do exist for men and women. how we deal with it is what is remembered.
"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," 39-time Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King tweeted on Saturday.
I admired Serena’s ability to call out the umpire on unfair treatment in the heat of the moment. She took a risk but she’s an experienced player with a major platform and voice. I believe she knew she could afford to take that risk compared to any other female player who doesn’t have the track record and reputation she has.
I was also really impressed and pleased to see many notable male tennis players, like James Blake and Andy Roddick tweet that they have NOT been penalized for similar behavior on the court. This simple admittance helps validate Serena and helps other see that she wasn’t out of line for calling out the sexism. Male support is so important because it validates how women feel and adds supporting evidence to the claim.
2. How to lose with grace.
“Let’s make this the best moment we can. Let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due and let’s not boo anymore. We’re going to get through this and let’s be positive, so congratulations, Naomi!” - Serena Williams during the trophy ceremony
The trophy ceremony brought me to tears and I highly recommend watching it here. I was outraged by the crowd’s loud boos as it was completely uncalled for and unfair to Naomi who earned that moment of celebration. Serena saw her competitor consumed with tears and guilt and put her arms around her to comfort her and even tried to make her smile. She also used her opportunity to answer questions to instead address the crowd to ask them to stop booing and celebrate the winner who played well and fought hard. As upset as she was, she knew there was another time and place to address it. That is sportsmanship.
3. How to win with humility
"I felt a little bit sad because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn't the outcome they wanted. I could sympathize because I have been a fan of Serena my whole life. I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win." - Naomi Osaka on The Today Show
My heart broke for Naomi who felt the need to apologize to the crowd who was disappointed to see Serena lose even though this was supposed to be such a happy and thrilling moment for her! Naomi clearly had the emotional intelligence to respond to the upset crowd and to be sensitive to Serena. She didn’t boast or celebrate obnoxiously. Granted, had the match gone differently, we don’t know how she would’ve celebrated her win but my impression of her is that she was a gracious winner who reacted to those around her.
4. Move forward knowing that the painful moment will be a teaching lesson for all.
“The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that wants to express themselves, and they want to be a strong woman.They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me but it’s gonna work out for the next person.” - Serena Williams at the post-match press conference
Serena has had so many victories and defeats over her career. Of course she has every right to be upset yet she knew that her temporary pain can change the course for so many women in the future. It’s incredibly admirable for her to think about other women at a time where she could’ve stayed quiet and kept the experience personal.
We understand there are many interpretations and views on this topic and so we welcome the discussion and your thoughts in the comments below!