Serena Williams talked about her fashion business and her family, but not tennis fouls during an appearance before a business trade group in Las Vegas. The 23-time Grand Slam champion wasn’t asked about gender equality in sports or an argument she had last weekend with the chair umpire at her U.S. Open finals match in New York during about 25 minutes onstage with Sarah Robb O’Hagan, chief executive of Flywheel Sports, at the National Retail Federation trade show. Williams, who took no questions from the audience, said previously she felt she had been treated more harshly than a male player would have been for smashing her racket and arguing with match official Carlos Ramos during her straight-set finals loss to Naomi Osaka of Japan on Sept. 8 in New York.
Williams received three code violations and was penalized one game. She was later fined USD 17,000.
The incident drew a volley of commentary in recent days.
Tennis icon Billie Jean King said she believes tennis applies a double standard to women compared with men, and that a similar outburst by a male player would have drawn no repercussions.
A cartoon caricature of Williams appeared in an Australian newspaper drew comparisons to U.S. racial stereotypes of the past.
In Croatia, U.S. Davis Cup team captain Jim Courier said he thought the gender issue had been polarized and in some ways politicized.
“It’s been quite the week,” O’Hagan said before steering the conversation away from controversy.
“It isn’t the first time you have had to deal with unfair judgment against you, and yet you have this amazing an ability to come back with such courage and grace,” she said.
She drew applause praising Williams for calming a riled-up audience that booed the U.S. Open outcome to refocus the moment on Osaka’s victory.
“I feel it’s really important to stand up for what you believe in,” Williams said, “especially if it can affect the future and affect a lot of people in the future. That’s what it’s all about.”
Williams also was asked about what O’Hagan termed “epic comebacks” during her 20-year tennis career, including having a baby a little more than a year ago.
The tennis star, who has her own fashion line, advised business owners to “really figure out, ‘What can I do to revamp and bring it back to the top?’”
“Really it’s just about having a great team ... and rolling up your sleeves and hard work,” Williams said.
“I work really, really hard at my game. And then I work super hard at my fashion business. And I’m working incredibly hard at being a mom.”