NEW YORK — Serena Williams berated the chair umpire, calling him a thief and his punishment sexist. The penalty was controversial, but the defeat thorough.
This U.S. Open final promised to be memorable. It certainly was.
Naomi Osaka played brilliantly in the biggest match of her life, winning 6-2, 6-4 in her first Grand Slam final at age 20.
For so long, Osaka dreamed of playing her idol Williams in a major final. Not just playing, but winning. That became reality on Saturday, but not in a way should could have ever imagined.
Osaka, who moved from Japan to Long Island with her family at age 3, denied Williams a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title (and first as a mom).
She became the first Japanese player to win a major. It shouldn’t be her last. She did so fearlessly, showcasing the shot-making that put her into the final dropping just one set in six matches the last two weeks.
Most notably, it came after Williams screamed at chair umpire Carlos Ramos after she was docked a point penalty for two code violations (illegal coaching from the stands and smashing her racket).
Williams was then docked a game penalty for a third code violation, verbal abuse after calling Ramos “a thief” over the first violation.
Williams received that first code violation when Ramos deemed that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, gave Williams illegal advice from her box at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Early in the second set, Mouratoglou appeared to make a hand gesture looking at Williams suggesting she move closer to the net during points. Williams denied she received the coaching, telling Ramos between points:
“One thing I’ve never done is cheat. If he gives me a thumbs up, he’s telling me to come on. We don’t have any code, and I know you don’t know that. And I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”
Mouratoglou said after the match that he was coaching, but he didn’t think Williams even saw it.
“I was [coaching], like 100 percent of the coaches on 100 percent of the matches,” Mouratoglou said after the match on ESPN, adding that he had never before been called for a coaching violation. “So we have to stop this hypocrite thing. [Osaka’s coach] Sascha [Bajin] was coaching every point, too. It’s strange because this chair umpire was the chair umpire for most of the finals of Rafa [Nadal], and Toni [Nadal] is coaching every single point.”
Later in the second set, Williams received a second code violation for smashing her racket after being broken on serve. She approached Ramos’ chair after she realized she had been, by rule, docked a point for two code violations.
“This is unbelievable,” she said, approaching Ramos. “Every time I play here, I have problems [Williams had memorable arguments with chair umpires in 2004 and 2011 U.S. Open losses, plus told a lineswoman she would stuff a tennis ball down her throat in a 2009 defeat.]. … I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. You need to make an announcement that I didn’t get coaching. I don’t cheat. I didn’t get coaching. How can you say that? … You owe me an apology. You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter, and I stand for what’s right for her. I’ve never cheated. You owe me an apology. You will never do another one of my matches.”
After Osaka went up 4-3, Williams again spoke at Ramos from her chair, saying, “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.”
Ramos gave Williams a third violation for verbal abuse, which constitutes a game penalty, putting her down 5-3 and on the brink of defeat.
“Are you kidding me?” Williams repeated. “Because I said you’re a thief? Because you stole a point from me. But I’m not a cheater. I told you to apologize to me.”
Williams then asked for the tournament referee Brian Earley to come out. Earley and WTA supervisor Donna Kelso heard Williams out. She told them as the crowd booed:
“That’s not right. You know me. You know my character. And that’s not right. This is not fair. This has happened to me too many times. This is not fair. This is not fair. To lose a game for saying that is not fair. … You know how many other men do things that are much worse than that? This is not fair. This is unbelievable. … There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right. I know you can’t admit, but I know you know it’s not right. I know you can’t change it, but I’m just saying that’s not right. I get the rules, but I’m just saying it’s not right. It happened to me at this tournament every single year that I play is just not fair. That’s all I have to say. It’s not fair.”