CAPE TOWN – Carlos Ramos. Few sports fans outside the tennis world would’ve heard of him before.
But now the 47-year-old umpire from Portugal is gained worldwide notoriety (or fame, considering the support he has received in some quarters) for his clashes with Serena Williams in the US Open final won by Naomi Osaka.
But just what is he about?
Ramos has a reputation for being strict on the rules. He is not shy to dish out code violations left, right and centre.
He has had a run-in with Venus Williams as well. At the 2016 French Open, Ramos issued a coaching violation against her, and she disputed it on court: “I’m 36 years old. Never in my life have I had a coaching violation. No, I don’t do that.”
At last year’s Roland Garros event, Rafael Nadal got two time violations for slow play, the second of which saw him lose a point.
Andy Murray was on Ramos’ wrong side at the 2016 Rio Olympics, getting a code violation for saying “stupid umpiring”.
The New York Times reports that Ramos has been the chair umpire in all four men’s singles Grand Slam finals, as well as the men’s Olympic final in 2012 in London.
He has also been in charge of three of the four women’s singles finals – with just the Australian Open outstanding.
Ramos is regarded as a “gold badge” umpire, among the best in the business, and it was no surprise that his employers, the International Tennis Federation, said in a statement that the code violations issued to Williams were “in accordance with the relevant rules”.
They added: “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.”
That last phrase is important. While the violations may have been correct in terms of the rulebook, did Ramos act “at all times” with professionalism and integrity?
The coaching violation began the whole drama, as Williams insisted that she hadn’t even seen her coach Patrick Mouratoglou’s hand gestures in the stands.
So you can understand her anger at being accused of cheating, and now she was being punished for something she didn’t even know was happening?
There was no “soft warning” from Ramos either for the coaching issue or the final one where he penalised Williams with a game.
Another strange thing to come out of this whole furore is Ramos’ low pay – former top umpire Richard Ings tweeted that the Portuguese would’ve earned only $450 (about R6 788) for the final, which is the standard daily rate of the US Tennis Association…
Umpiring is so easy from the top of the grand stand.— Richard Ings (@ringsau) September 10, 2018
I can also confirm that Carlos Ramos earned his pay in that match. His pay? US$450 which is the daily rate all USTA umpires are paid. https://t.co/Uzn992GlhV