This morning's Today featured the following interview with Annabel Croft. Annabel was so good that I thought I'd transcribe it for you:
Chris Dennis: Let's speak to Annabel Croft, who was in New York and witnessed the whole incident first-hand. Annabel, good morning to you.
Annabel Croft: Morning Chris.
Chris Dennis: How much damage, Annabel, do you think this will do to tennis moving forward?
Annabel Croft: Well, that's a really good question because, as you've just said, I think at the moment it has rather divided the game. It's opened up a huge amount of debate. But, in many ways, it's also put tennis on the front pages and created enormous amount of interest in tennis, so you hope that more people want to come and watch it because, you know, there's a lot that goes on theatrically and dramatically in tennis matches. But, you know, I think in terms of some of the points you just mentioned, with the umpire I think it's a terrible state of affairs because I think umpires do need to feel supported, and here we've had a situation where the WTA (the Women's Tennis Association) and the USTA publicly backed a player over an umpire's decision - and, remember, she's been fined for the code violations - just for doing his job with the system currently in place. Why wasn't the fine reduced then if they were going to support the umpire? And umpires, remember, are not allowed to speak publicly because of their contacts. So he couldn't defend himself. And they've kind of hung him out to dry. And I don't believe we'd even be talking about it if we were talking about a player who was ranked 200 in the world.
Chris Dennis: That's a very good point. Carlos Ramos, incidentally, has come out in the last few days and said he's fine. Let's stick with umpiring then for the moment. Could umpires, as a result of what's happened, start perhaps even subconsciously to start coming down a little bit harder on the male players?
Annabel Croft: Well, you know, I don't think it's anything to do with men or women because I don't believe this was ever a row about sexism. The stats on the code violations during the US Open were: men got 86 code violations during the tournament, women got 22.
Chris Dennis: Yep.
Annabel Croft: As we know, Carlos Ramos, er, we know him to be a very strict but very principled umpire. And, you know, I absolutely 100% believe that had any male player reacted the way that Serena did they would have got equally the same treatment. And the interesting thing here...well, I think Martina Navratilova got it right when she said that the argument shouldn't be about 'what behaviour we can get away with, either as a woman compared to a man', it should be about 'Is this the right way to behave?' But the interesting thing, I also think, was that a good ref can take a little bit of swearing and a little bit of ranting - we've seen that for male players and female players - but they won't take an attack on their character, or the integrity of their character. And when she called him "a liar and a thief" she was showing a lack of respect for him as a human being. And what was so hypocritical, I guess, or what you could say was the irony of the whole thing, was that she was furious about being accused of being a cheat because of a coaching violation, which her coach did later admit to, because she felt that was an attack on her character. But that was the very thing that she was then attacking him for.
Chris Dennis: Yes, there's an irony in there, isn't there? Just briefly and finally, Annabel, what damage will this all do to Serena's legacy - for many people simply the greatest female tennis player of all time? Does this tarnish her legacy?
Annabel Croft: Well, you know, I think she will always be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time. She's taken the game to new heights. Obviously she's desperately trying to tie Margaret Court's overall record of 24 slams. She's just one short, which I think is why there was so much incredible pressure on her. You can almost understand how it all just got a bit too much for her. But there are now three blips on her career. Remember there were two previous situations at the US Open: Against Kim Clijsters she was defaulted out of the US Open, which actually I think was a little bit of a worse situation, where she threatened to ram a ball down the line judge's throat - who was female incidentally - and then, of course, against Eva Asderaki, the umpire who gave her a point penalty and told she had "better not meet her in a dark alley" and that she was "ugly inside". So I think there's...you know, she's certainly got people talking about tennis. I think we all know that she's quite a feisty competitor, but maybe she needs to remember the Wimbledon quote next time she heads out to battle, because there's a wonderful Wimbledon quote by Rudyard Kipling...
Chris Dennis: Briefly, Annabel, briefly.
Annabel Croft: If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same that's what the spirit of sport's all about.
Chris Dennis: Annabel, you've said it perfectly. Thank you very much indeed for your thoughts this morning.