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Australian cartoonist defends Serena Williams sketch labelled 'racist' by JK Rowling

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An Australian artist has defended one of his cartoons which depicts Serena Williams smashing her racket during the US Open final.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has joined numerous social media users in criticising a cartoon by The Sun Herald cartoonist Mark Knight depicting 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams losing her cool during the US Open Women's Final.

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Dr Keith Rathbone on Serena Williams sketch
Dr Keith Rathbone on Serena Williams sketch

The cartoon is a spin on the moment Williams smashed her racket, which resulted in her second of three code violations as she was downed by Japan's Naomi Osaka 6-2 6-4.

Osaka's maiden Grand Slam victory was overshadowed by Williams' antics, which has seen chair umpire Carlos Ramos thrust into the spotlight. 

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'A complete stereotype': Civil rights activists breaks down the Serena Williams cartoon
'A complete stereotype': Civil rights activists breaks down the Serena Williams cartoon

The cartoon exaggerates Williams' anger and shows the tennis star jumping up and down on her racket, with a pacifier nearby.

In the background, a character depicting Osaka is told by the umpire: "Can you just let her win?".

JK Rowling picked up on the social media furore over the cartoon and said it reduced Ms Williams to "racist and sexist tropes".

Others on social media slammed the cartoon for being "offensive" and one user asked where the cartoon was when men "broke their rackets".

The Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston backed the cartoon in response to criticism on social media.

“A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that," he was quoted on The Herald Sun.

“It had nothing to do with gender or race.”

Mr Knight said the cartoon was not about race, but about poor behaviour.

“I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said.

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Cartoonist Mark Knight responds to critics over portrayal of Serena Williams
Cartoonist Mark Knight responds to critics over portrayal of Serena Williams

“Three days before I had drawn a cartoon about Nick Kyrgios being led off by the ears, like you used to do with your children,” he added.

“The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behaviour on the day, not about race.”

Earlier on Monday, Mr Knight hit back and denied the cartoon was about "gender," claiming he drew a cartoon earlier in the tournament depicting Australian star Nick Kyrgios "behaving badly".

Williams, a six-time US Open champion, has since been fined $17,000 by the United States Tennis Association for the violations.

In the wake of Osaka's triumph, there were messages of support for Williams as well as those condemning her behaviour and agreeing with the umpire's calls.

Serena Williams argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos over his decision to deduct a game.
Serena Williams argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos over his decision to deduct a game.
AAP

Billie Jean King said there is a clear double standard in the way the rules are applied to women and men.

“When a woman is emotional, she's 'hysterical' and she's penalized for it,” she said in a message posted on Twitter, adding that if a male had a similar outburst, there would be no penalty.

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