The U.S. Open is one of the best sporting events to happen in the country every year. Unlike other tennis tournaments which can come across as stuffy, the New York event is totally different -in fact, it is built for excitement. Starting with the location, and putting thousands of people into the stadiums for night matches is the perfect setting for excitement, with a hint of rowdiness. However, what happened in the Women’s Final this year will have implications on the tennis world, and gambling on the sport, for years to come.
A brief recap of what happened
Let’s start with a short recap of what happened for those of you who didn’t watch the match on Saturday. Tennis legend Serena Williams was shooting for her record-tying 24th Grand Slam title against Naomi Osaka, an outspoken fan of Williams. The 20-year-old Japanese player was a clear underdog, but that didn’t stop her from bounding out to a big lead, pounding the ball over the court in winning the first set from her idol.
Williams has had some history with attitude on the court, especially when she is losing, but what happened in the second set was nothing short of bizarre. During the second set, Willimas was looking up at her coach who appeared to give her a hand signal. The chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, noticed this and gave Williams a warning for coaching. Williams seemed to lose it at this point, demanding an apology in front of the 20,000 in attendance. In the next game, a clearly frustrated Williams broke her racket, causing another code violation, this time resulting in the loss of a point.
On the changeover between games, down 4-3 and getting ready to serve, Williams continued her measured anger with the umpire, suggesting that he was a “thief” for stealing a point from her. Ramos decided that he has enough, and called another code violation, which automatically calls for a game penalty. Now down 5-3 instead of 4-3, Williams could not regain her composure in time, falling to Osaka in straight sets.
How did this affect the betting?
Let’s focus on the betting side of all of this (yes, we are aware it is much deeper of an issue, but this is a gambling site). First off, Williams was a huge favorite going into the match, and even though she had lost the first set, there was still a decent chance she could have come back, which she has been known to do a lot in the past. As the match progressed, a gambler would have likely been able to get very attractive odds on Williams making a comeback, but all of that stalled when she was assessed those penalties.
In-match live betting is very popular in sports these days, and tennis is leading the charge for this fast-twitch style of gambling. These days, with the speeds of internet connections and mobile access to odds, you can bet on essentially every point of the match. In the second set of the match, there was some momentum slowly moving in the direction of Williams when the controversy began so it would have been very difficult to follow along as an in-play bettor during that traumatic situation.
Finally, some prop bets would have been affected by the way the match went. You could make bets on the total number of points won by Williams, which is clearly affected by not being able to serve one of the games. Also, if you had found a bet on the number of times Serena would lose a service game in the match, this would have been seriously impacted by the fact that one of her service games was simply taken away from her by penalty.
All of this adds up to some hectic times for gamblers in what likely started as a routine day for anyone looking to place a bet on the Women’s Final.
It’s about more than betting, of course
We all know that the results of this match are going to have ramifications that last far longer than the memory of the Williams breakdown. First of all, the sport needs to do something about coaching – regulate it instead of forcing teams to find ways around the system. For the record, even though Williams was adamant that she didn’t and does not receive coaching, her coach was interviewed and admitted that is what he was trying to do.
Also, giving the umpire that kind of discretion over abuse penalties is too arbitrary. Clearly, Ramos was not happy about being embarrassed by Williams in front of a huge viewing audience, and while she was in the wrong, many players have said far worse to umpires without being penalized. We are not laying blame anywhere here, but the fact of the matter is that there needs to be a better system in place to handle emotional outbursts.
Also, what was the umpire doing watching the box anyway? Doesn’t he have enough to do taking care of the match on the court to worry about digesting a hand signal and making a determination if it is one of coaching or enthusiasm?
Tennis has already been rocked by scandal in the gambling world on a couple of occasions, but the gambling world has not been affected in such a high profile match before this one. We are hopeful that the gender bias that seems to exist can be rectified, and that Serena Williams can continue to be a beacon of hope for women around the world. We also hope that new rules can be put in place that will not allow these types of issues to be hurtful to those who are gambling on the sport.