Four lessons from Naomi, Ramos and Serena

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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This is a pictorial representation of me in the wake of the finals for the women’s (single) in the 2018 tennis US open. This is how I have been peeping from time to time to be sure that no more chairs are being thrown, and it is now safe to speak again:

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Tempers were high all across the world. Everyone had an opinion, even those who knew neither what tennis was, or who Serena Williams is.

You know the most infuriating thing to tell someone in a worked-up fit? “Calm Down!”.
Lol. This just revves the engine of the anger.

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The whole world was in a fit; everyone was shouting and no one was listening. Now that time has worked its magic, perhaps… we can calmly reflect over the events of that night and distill lessons to be learnt?

I have never seen a 20-year old so poised, graceful and calm in the face of such overwhelming drama.

Naomi is the sort of 20 year old that typical Nigerian parents would point to and quip “Don’t you see Naomi? See how she is so jeje.”

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She understood that the happenings on the field were beyond just the tennis game, and that she was just caught in the cross-fire. Rather than adding to the already brimming clash of egos, she held her own, without detracting from her goal to give her famous opponent a good run for her money, and turning her back on the drama when necessary.

She realised she was collateral damage in the carnage of emotions that night, but she did not let that deter her from her prize.

Naomi earned her right to deserve a win, and even though the win in this case was tainted with unwelcome controversy, she remained unshaken in accepting her well deserved accolades.

Yes, she acknowledged with a shaky voice and eyes full of tears that she would have preferred the win in less-controversial circumstances. But it was still a win that day, and the world will not forget.

She had earned her right to claim the crown that day.

Naomi is a lesson in the vicissitudes of life, to always stay calm and focused on the goal, notwithstanding distractions thrown at us, notwithstanding that we played no part in inviting the distractions.

Keep your eyes on the prize always, and know when to walk away from drama that does not concern you.


That was a word I learned in the wake of the controversy. Coined by black Feminist Moya Bailey, it refers to specific prejudice targeted at black women.

It has been used to explain the basis of Ramos’ actions since after the drama of that night.

I am not sure I would quite quickly label him as a ‘misognoist’, even though I have seen the footage which made the rounds, of how he also meted Serena’s sister - Venus Williams - with similar harshness during a prior match.

I doubt that two instances is enough to hang so heavy a label on even Ramos. (I am an officer in the temple of justice… remember?) I would probably have to review his past interactions every black females he has had contact with, before I can broadly label him as a ‘misogynoist’.

But Ramos reminds me of those Nigerian lower-cadre civil servants, whom given slight power over other individuals, exploit it to the fullest while playing God over the tiniest things such as a cup of coffee.

Foaming over his authority as the judge and jury over the futures of two women, and ensuring no one was left in doubt as to who the “man of the match” was.
Ramos could have done without the continued penalizing of Serena; as the umpire, he had room to choose where to grant concessions, and where to put his foot down. But there is a large line between putting one’s foot down, and overbearingly wielding one’s power.

He chose the latter path.

Ramos is a lesson in management, in which even I have jotted down my notes: that one should be cautious to not turning into a power-tripping tyrant, thereby winning the battle, but creating a needless war and losing the respect of subordinates.

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If there was no God, and we were all mandated to worship another human, Serena would be my human-deity.

But there is a God, and I am content with pure adulation for Serena. 

Her sheer grit in attaining the heights she has attained, while blazing the trail for black women all over the world and passing the positive message that you can be anything you put your heart be.

Serena has also been vocal off-courts in advocating for equal pay for women, and we have watched her body being policed, even as she has endured unequal scrutiny in playing her sport.

She has endeared our hearts in being vocal about the physical strain of motherhood, and her struggle to return to her top form.

I am sure that just like me, millions all over the world had placed their bet on her walking away from the courts that night with her 25th grand-slam. Which explains – although, does not justify - the unified booing from the crowd at the unexpected turn of even.

But Serena… girrrrrrl, you had no business falling for the bait!

It was enough that Ramos had taken one point away from her for the alleged “cheating”, even after she explained serially that there was no cheating from her end. That he was pig-headed in heeding to her explanation should have been enough of a red flag regarding his countenance to her.

In my opinion, what was most painful was not that Ramos took away her point, thereby kick-starting the down-ward spiral leading to her eventual loss. It was that Serena allowed Ramos to bait her into aiding him in robbing her (and us all) of ever knowing if she would have won or lost that match, square and fair.

(Now that was a mouthful!)

Yes, male players are not penalized for the things Serena said.

Yes, male (and other players) have been coached before during matches without being penalized.

This is however is insufficient defense to an allegation of misconduct; that others had committed same wrong, without attracting equal penalty.

Let us adopt the analogy of traffic offenders; a claim that an earlier traffic offender ran the red light without attracting a ticket is insufficient defense to a ticket against a subsequent traffic offender.

The important thing is whether a regulation provides for certain misconduct, a breach of which attracts a given penalty.

In this case, Serena’s coach’s signs to her (which the coach subsequently admitted as coaching), her throwing her racket on the floor and (justified?) insults to the umpire all resulted in breaches against the rules of the game, thereby leading to rapid and sustained penalties against her eventually leading to her losing the match.

This is not to take away from the fact that the coach was clearly on a power-trip, and the possibility that he had some personal disaffinity to Serena. Unfortunately, any clear-cut complaints she may have had has been obfuscated in the light of her infractions, resulting from arguably righteous anger.

Serena is a lesson in the pursuit of success; that when the stakes are high, the littlest things matter.

It is better to err on the side of caution in mastering one’s passion, and not letting our buttons be pressed, thereby allowing that which drives us to be twisted by others and used against us in causing us calculated failure, or delayed progress.

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But the greatest lesson of all was the conviviality exhibited by Serena and Naomi towards each other, despite the controversial turn of events.

This passes a strong message that even though we may find ourselves in situations of perceived conflict involving another person, we should be open enough in the right circumstances to understand that we are not the other's enemy. Rather, the conflict may be as a result of the actions of an outside force, which conflict should not see us turn on each other., but to turn to each other.

If there are other lessons you gleaned from the events of the very eventful match, please share it below. 

And if you disagree with all or some of what has been stated above, let’s hear your thoughts too!



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  1. Thanks for the lessons learnt and making me look into my dictionary. Keep it up Ma'am

  2. I learnt that you should always embrace your L with joy, learn from it and move forward and stop trying to hang it on someone or something. Own up to your L. Serena is a sour loser. She never believed she'd lose to a rookie like Naomi and when she saw the L coming she quickly pinned it to the umpire when she clearly knew she broke a rule.

    1. Ahh ahhhhn!!! You're harsh o. 😂😂😂

      But that's a different perspective. I guess we'll never know..

  3. Alot learnt.You should consider writing a book.# Accolades