Brian Earley, Longtime US Open Tournament Referee, Admits He Felt Serena Was Wrong

I had a chance today to talk to Brian Earley, who at last year’s Open completed his 39th year as the tournament referee. Mr. Earley is quite distinguishable for his lanky avuncular Jimmy Stewart-like look topped by a shock of modish white hair. I’ve never seen him lose his cool when he steps on a court–usually to mediate an ongoing dispute–or even raise his voice.

The topic I discussed with Mr. Early today was none other than Ms. Serena Williams and whether he felt she was at fault for the way she went after US Open Women’s Finals umpire, Carlos Ramos of Portugal, during their infamous verbal altercation in the women’s finals. Earley said that when he took to the Center Court at Arthur Ashe Stadium after Serena was docked a game by Ramos, Serena wanted him to reverse Ramos’ decision, but he told her he didn’t have the power to do that.

Serena did not think she was going to receive a point penalty, Earley said, when she smashed her racquet in the second set, but Ramos had already given her a coach’s warning for her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, using hand signals. Serena thought Ramos had rescinded the warning, but in fact, he had not. Earley said while most coaches do coach from the stands, many are called for the violation by umpires. In fact, Early said at slams, Ramos is always assigned one of Rafael Nadal’s matches because Nadal is infamous for receiving coaching during matches, and Ramos had divvied our many warnings to Nadal. Earley said that for Nadal, this is common procedure as Nadal has received, Early said, at least one coach’s warning in every slam he’s ever played in.

Earley said right after the match, Serena asked to speak to Ramos and Ramos, who was in the umpire’s office, heard this and Serena, Ramos and Earley had a meeting. Serena said she respected Ramos as an umpire, but that he was wrong in assessing her the warning and then being unclear–in her eyes–as to rescinding it. Ramos stood his ground, saying that he’s an umpire who umpires by the book and by the book, what Moratoglou did was worth of a warning.

Earley said he was also upset that his organization, the USTA, would not let him stand up for Ramos at the end of the match. He wanted to address the fans and media at Arthur Ashe Stadium to state that he felt Ramos had acted in a fashion that upheld his job, but the USTA apparently did not want to give Earley the opportunity to speak and he didn’t.

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  • Hartt · December 12, 2018 at 6:06 pm

    It is interesting that there was a meeting between Serena and Ramos. It is unfortunate that Earley’s views on the incident aren’t more widely reported.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 12, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    Yes, Earley said the USTA basically muzzled him that he wanted to speak out in support of Ramos to say he had done nothing wrong. But it is interesting with how angry Serena was that both she and Ramos wanted to and had a meeting after their match.

  • catherine · December 13, 2018 at 4:52 am

    Nowhere have I seen a mention of the meeting, except here. That, and Earley’s comments, as Hartt says, weren’t publicised. If more people had known these things the whole incident could have been seen in a different perspective.

  • Doug Day · December 13, 2018 at 6:35 am

    A pity Christine Blasey Ford wasn’t available at the time to publicize their achievement for the USTA.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 13, 2018 at 9:24 am


    You’re losing me here with the CBF reference. It is amazing sometimes and I’ve thought about this a lot as a reporter, what some people in the limelight like Earley in this case, will tell you about a sensitive situation if you just ask them. I saw Earley at my gym, he was going out to play racquetball. He doesn’t know me and I didn’t mention that I write about tennis, but I just asked him whether he thought Serena was wrong in the way she behaved and he just unloaded.

    I don’t know if this information if it gets back to the head honchos at the USTA will get Earley in hot water, but to say that the USTA wouldn’t let the tournament referee speak out about the situation is pretty prickly in my ears. I also find interesting the fact that Serena came off the court and instead of steaming out of New York, she directly asked to speak with Ramos after the match and Ramos wanted to hold a meeting as well. This tells me that both really believed they were in the right with the way they acted and behaved, but that they wanted the other party to perhaps know that there were no hard feelings and to describe more fully why they did what they did.

  • Doug Day · December 13, 2018 at 10:52 am

    Dan a protracted flimsy victimization drama ensued because authorities buckled beneath identity politics intimidation. Sound familiar? Coincidentally, CBF is in this months Sports Illustrated for some reason. But the final insult was Earley & Ramos complexions couldn’t be seen as ganging up on Serena in the USTA post match optics.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 13, 2018 at 11:01 am

    OK Doug, I think I see. But who was intimidated, CBF or the Republican Party? Ok I guess that’s a discussion for another site.

    How about Justin Gimelstob pleading in an LA court yesterday that his former friend that he allegedly attacked was actually the aggressor after the friend claimed JG knocked him down in front of his wife and 2-year-old and proceeded to hit him over head 50 times leaving contusions. That’s going to be an interesting case.

  • Doug Day · December 13, 2018 at 10:06 pm

    Dan – Yes & after the 24 months for battery I’d cite Gimmel 9 more for setting record for cliche-mongering as a commentator.

  • catherine · December 14, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Breaking up is so hard to do – after 11 years it took a two minute phone call to end Venus Williams and Witt coaching partnership….

    Also Sloane Stephens and Murray have ‘suspended’ their association – whatever that means. He won’t be with her in Australia.

    New game – Spot Who’s in The Box 🙂

    Worst break-ups of 2018 ?

  • Dan Markowitz · December 14, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Wow, Dougie, you are a tough hombre, but I agree with you, Gimel should get at least 9 months more in the slammer for cliche-lashing and overly-dramatic or emphatic commentating.

    Why do women players break up with their coaches much more than male players? Look at guys like Blake or Youzhny or for the most part Nadal, they had the same coaches their entire careers.

    Women seem to jump around much more. Madison Keys has been the Vince Spadea of female players. She’s going to hire Scoop next.

  • catherine · December 14, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Scoop will be next in the queue for Madison who’s just signed James Madrigal (? or similar name)for 2018.

    I’d be interested to know how many of these coaching splits in WTA are about $$$$. And how many come from pressure from agents and people in the background etc. Maybe some coaches see women as a softer touch money-wise. But really I have no idea.

    Oh – and Johanna Konta has been spotted playing Real Tennis at Queens with Tim Henman and again at Hampton Court with Prince Edward and a couple of others. Starry company she’s keeping. Great preparation for the new season 🙂

  • catherine · December 14, 2018 at 11:16 am

    On a completely different note I came across a Youtube of W’don QF between Lisicki and Kerber 2012. I was struck by how much faster the court appears to be and by the high quality of the play. Also how Kerber’s game has changed since then, and probably Lisicki’s too although we don’t see much of her these days. Sabine’s serve had to be one of the best in the game.

    Best argument I’ve seen for speeding up the court on the WTA circuit. And maybe everywhere else.

  • Doug Day · December 14, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Camille Pagliga said
    Theres no female Mozart because theres no female Jack the Ripper. You have to be a little nuts (obsessed) to sacrafice so much (relationships) to be the best in the world. Thank God women have the human touch. That’s why you have twice as many female decendents. But procreation aside, the sexes mostly differ very little. But not at the extremes and the WTA by definition is extreme. Maddy might keep switching coaches to keep the obsession from getting extremely old. It just sounds like something a guy would try.

  • Hartt · December 14, 2018 at 11:57 am

    I hope someone does a list of all the coaching changes this season, for both the women and the men. It is just too much for a mere fan to keep up with!

  • Doug Day · December 14, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Injury timeout & memo to Scoop for your upcoming book of Tennis Prose Greatest Hits: In replying to Dan I just got a code violation, namely speech. I cited the wrong research. Here comes the queen bee.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 15, 2018 at 9:33 am

    Brian Early is out, this was his final US Open. Clearly Early was censored. The uSTA clearly protected and defended a monstrous outburst by a monster. Credit to Early for making these comments.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 15, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Catherine, I’m surprised Madison Keys dropped Davenport, it seemed like a good healthy team situation. For Keys to drop Davenport before winning her first major is curious. Madrigal coached Sandgren this year, apparently he’s done with Tennys.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 15, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    A monster, come on, Scoop, that’s ridiculous. Serena is passionate, she’s fiery, she’s a diva, she’s an amazing player, she’s a fighter, she can’t do no wrong in her mind, but a monster? No, an emphatic no. The belief Serena has in herself, and not her tennis game, because so much more than just a tough junior and pro tennis atmosphere, she’s had to overcome things and obstacles that the Chris Evert’s, even the Billie Jean King’s, cannot possibly imagine, and i’d imagine they’d be the first to agree with that assessment.

    Scoop, you owe Serena an apology much more than Ramos does or did.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 15, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    What did Serena have to overcome? Nothing any different from any other great champion of sport. She said she never encountered racism. Like Hingis said, being black was an advantage for her. She threatened to kill a lineswoman and to shove a ball down another’s throat. That’s assault. She ruined Osaka’s crowning moment as a major champion. She has a a beautiful side and also a beast aspect of her persona. There will be no apologies. She is a great champion of tennis history but that does not overshadow her monstrous moments in the heat of battle. Our own Richard Pagliaro said on Tennis Channel if Serena came after him with threats like he did to the lineswoman he would be scared too. Only monsters can scare a brave man like Richard Pagliaro.

  • Doug Day · December 15, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Easy,boys. Scoop’s word choice “monster” might be hyperbolic but its also a fitting counterpart to your walling off Serena’s struggles as beyond our imagination. Try this. Serena monstrous game is owed to something very few black kids ever get. A dutiful father. If anything her life is a testament to teamwork between the sexes at a colorblind game. Guess there wasn’t room under that one roof for two no. ones & magnanimity enough for both.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 15, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    Right Doug, Serena has gotten a lot of help from white people throughout her tennis career from childhood to now, she also gets a ton of support from white people all over the world in every city she plays in every continent she is treated with respect and love. Of course the only one single incident was in IW when her father allegedly rigged Venus to pull out of the semi which cheated the IW ticket buying fans of the semi they paid their hard earned dollars. White people have been great to both Williams for their entire careers. Serena was once asked if she ever encountered racism in tennis and she could not cite anything to mention. I have the quotes and they are going in Facing Serena Williams/Facing Steffi Graf double book. So for Dan to imply Serena overcame extreme racism is just fake news bulljive.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 15, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    If it was so easy to rise from the ghetto to play pro tennis, how come Venus and Serena are the only two players to ever have done it?

  • Doug Day · December 15, 2018 at 11:08 pm

    The father is the common denominator for 2 number ones. What are the odds? Here is a serious question for you another site: what causes black dads to so disproportionately desert their offspring?

  • Dan Markowitz · December 16, 2018 at 2:10 am

    Mostly economics, my friend. I don’t know if you have a family or not, but if you don’t have a job as the so-called “head of the family,” or you don’t have a decent paying one (I can’t imagine making what isn’t even the minimum wage in the US, $15 an hour, and supporting a family), a lot of dads, black and white, are going to head out the door from shame and frustration often. Richard Williams did not, but it’s not the only reason Venus and Serena became Venus and Serena. They are two extraordinary women.

  • catherine · December 16, 2018 at 2:54 am

    The main issue isn’t Serena’s background or her ‘struggles’ but her lack of self-control when she gets frustrated. That’s something she seems never to have addressed. It’s no excuse for her behaviour. And she might think about getting help for that as she goes on hunting the elusive 24.

    As for overcoming obstacles – maybe Chris Evert and BJK aren’t terribly good examples there- Chris was born into a tennis family and Billie Jean encountered few – she was so good so young.

    One player from the past who really did overcome a difficult background was Rosie Casals- she grew up in a poor environment and suffered a certain amount of discrimination in her early years. Not much support around in those days and not a lot of money either. Never heard her complain though – and never saw her smash a racquet. Too valuable.

    As for rising from the ghetto- other sports may offer more attractions. Richard Williams is the key here, as Doug points out.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 16, 2018 at 8:24 am

    Nobody said it was easy to rise out of the ghetto to play pro tennis, but who else tried? hans Gildemeister is now training a poor kid from Chile Hanamichi Carvajal who is now no. 1 in Chile under 16 and he beat the no 2 seed at Kalamazoo 16s, Hans told me he is from a very poor family. I played the kid a set and he’s top notch, it was 7-5 but I saw his easy power and variety and intelligence. He took it easy on me and I surprised him with some shots but when it mattered he got it done. Needs to get stronger and forehand volley better.

  • catherine · December 16, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Scoop – when you are doing your Facing books, do you find it harder getting quotes from women ?

    I notice you’re doing a double book for Serena and Steffi – any special reason for that ?

    I’m interested because no one else has done similar publications in tennis – as far as I know.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 16, 2018 at 5:36 pm

    One other thing Earley told me Serena said to him when he first came on the court in that US OPen finals is: “I”ve wanted to win this tournament since i was seven years old and he’s taking it away from me.”

    I find that fascinating. It’s like Serena is still trying to make good on her dreams as a 7 year old. And she already has. HOw many US OPen’s has Serena won, but in her mind it’s like she’s still trying to win her first one. That’s amazing hunger.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 16, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    Catherine, no, I’ve gotten some excellent very revealing content from women about Facing Serena and Steffi, very happy with this book. Will admit some of the current players seemed reluctant to say anything remotely controversial about Serena, perhaps they fear backlash. But I love to do interviews with women players, some of my favorite Biofiles were with Petko, Zvonareva, Hsieh, Schiavone, Mattek Sands, Bueno, etc. Stubbs, Bassett Seguso, Temesvari were very informative on Facing Steffi. Doing a double book because I want to change it up and think it might be hard to sell each on their own, and a double book might help sales and interest.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 16, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Ramos took nothing away from Serena, he enforced the RULES. Serena should stop playing the victim card and OBEY the rules of tennis.

  • Doug Day · December 17, 2018 at 9:14 am

    If you believe economic pressures in a country where the poor people are fat could cause fathers to abandon there own progeny there’s Haitian I want you to meet. A immigrant who shamelessly copied Richard Willams every trick raising two girls. Naomi’s Osaka’s father. That’s the girl who apologized for whipping her opstreporus prototype, Serena.

  • Doug Day · December 17, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Scoop, was the U.S. Open ladies final the feminazi equivalent of Tyson bites Holyfield?

  • Doug Day · December 17, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    What is mental toughness, heart in the dreams of a 7 yr. old little girl? Tyson used intimidation when in fact he was scared & only fought to get love he never received growing up. As soon as he saw an opponent wasn’t scared he felt helpless, a basic schoolyard bully. Competition doesn’t so much build character as reveal it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 17, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Good point Doug, it absolutely was. Serena was desperate and resorted to desperate measures to try to break Osaka’s momentum, confidence, rhythm and poise. But fortunately Serena’s devious scheme failed.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 17, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    Doug, you bought the Teddy Atlas BS that Tyson was just a bully and he crumbled when anybody stood up to him. Total nonsense theory by Teddy Atlas. Tyson overcame a lot, all those amateur opponents, all those tough pros who came to kick his ass. He destroyed a real bad ass in Trevor Berbick who was bigger and stronger than Mike and meaner and he had Angelo Dundee in his corner, but Mike knocked him out. Mike beat everyone until his life fell apart with Robin Givens and Don King wrecking his life by exploiting him. Cus dying was a heartbreaker. Mike always said Cus was the only one who had Mike’s self interests at heart, he even set up Mike with an IRA, that Mike says whenever he thinks about this, it still makes him cry. Everyone was out to exploit Mike and his career fell apart. Teddy Atlas is a jack ass who was nothing but a bucket carrier and towel boy in Cus’s Catskills Gym. Teddy Atlas made his name and career off of Mike Tyson’s name. Pay no attention to that jackass Teddy Atlas when he talks about Mike Tyson, he’s an idiot and has an agenda to discredit one of the greatest most explosive champions in the history of sport.

  • Doug Day · December 18, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Point taken, Scoop. Mike will forever be the knockout artist nonpareil. Serena similarly dismisses opponents with weapons and athleticism. Its the shamelessness in the choices they each made when facing defeat that struck me as unprecedented in sport.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 18, 2018 at 9:37 am

    Doug, Tyson was in a bad place in the 90s during jail and after jail. Everyone around him were like leeches. Mike even said he didn’t even want to leave jail when his time was up. He knew what was coming with all the exploiters and connivers. He just wasn’t equipped to handle so many thieves and cockroaches. He needed a team that cared for his own self interests like Cus, Jim Jacobs, Bill Cayton and Steve Lott did. I recommend to read my book on the Lewis vs Tyson Fight Heavyweight Armageddon or the Tyson book Undisputed Truth. You will learn a lot of what Tyson had to go through.

  • Doug Day · December 18, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    That’s tragic and somewhat exculpatory for Mike. What’s behind Venus’s sister’s persecution complex? Not the pretty one? Dumber things have spurred performers to greatness. It also could’ve brought “Colin” cancer to tennis…

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 18, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    I think Serena is a megalomaniac psychopath on the court and she thinks she can do no wrong, no matter how obscenely she behaves on court, because she’s black she will not suffer the same consequences if a white person did the same. The liberal media will ultimately protect and defend anything she does. Hingis was right, being black is an advantage for an aspiring young tennis player. The USTA certainly wants to help. The white fans are always supportive of the Williams. She just went too far this time at US Open. She will now try to show a nicer, kinder, gentler side in 2019 is my prediction.



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