Naomi Osaka – whose mother is from Japan and father is from Haiti – captured her first-ever Grand Slam title on Saturday, outlasting her idol, Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-4, in the U.S. Open women’s final.
There was a lot more controversy than in a typical championship match, however, as Williams was first penalized a point and then a game for accumulating three violations.
This is a glimpse into what transpired.
It started with an accusation.
After losing a lopsided first set, Williams started to play better early in the second. She brought Osaka to net and served with more consistency, keeping pace with the 20-year-old phenom.
Williams, who was pursuing her 24th Grand Slam title, received a warning from umpire Carlos Ramos that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was illegally coaching her from the stands.
The 36-year-old Williams took umbrage with the statement, insisting that her coach simply gave her a thumbs up as a sign of support and encouragement.
“You owe me an apology,” Williams told Ramos. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”
That gave her the first violation, which was just a warning.
Then her frustration boiled over.
After breaking Osaka’s serve early in the set to take a 3-1 lead, Williams hit the net on an unforced error that allowed Osaka get back on serve at 3-2.
When she missed the shot, Williams vehemently slammed her racket to the ground in frustration, which elicited a second violation from Ramos. The second violation resulted in the loss of a point, and Osaka used that 15-0 edge to establish a 4-3 lead.
Still visibly upset about the previous two violations, Williams wasn’t done chastising Ramos.
Her third violation resulted in the loss of a game.
She went back to argue with him some more and didn’t hold back as she told him how she felt.
“You stole a point from me,” she said. “You’re a thief, too.”
A third violation results in the loss of an entire game, and that’s what happened to Williams. The penalty made it 5-3 Osaka.
After Williams held serve, Osaka did the same to earn the 6-4 win.
Osaka earned the win.
Even with all the chaos around her, Osaka managed to stay poised and close out the win. The match will largely be remembered for years to come for Williams’s kerfuffle, but it was also a momentous milestone for Osaka.
Osaka, who became the first Japanese Grand Slam singles champion, watched Williams from the upper deck years ago, hoping she’d at least get an autograph and ideally one day get the chance to play her.
She beat Williams in their first meeting, at the Miami Open earlier this year, and she proved it wasn’t a fluke this time around. When she won, Osaka’s celebration was subdued, as she was seemingly both in shock and cognizant of the tension surrounding Williams and the umpire.
It was an unusual situation, as a young star in the making had a breakthrough moment, but one of the sport’s biggest icons dominated the headlines.
Mouratoglou admitted he was coaching.
He said, however, in an interview, that such behavior is common and it’s no different than any other coach would do.
“I’m honest, I was coaching,” he said. “I don’t think (Williams) looked at me, so that’s why she didn’t think I was. But I was, like 100 percent of the coaches on 100 percent of the matches. So we have to stop this hypocrite thing.”
He also said he doesn’t think Williams should have been penalized for smashing her racket, as he deems that part of the sport.
Williams talked about it afterward.
Williams stood her ground after the match and didn’t hold back then, either.
“I’ve seen other men call umpires several things,” she said. “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’”
Williams said she’s going to continue to fight for women. She said it “blows her mind,” and that she won’t stop sticking up for what she believes in, even if it leads to some repercussions along the way.
“I just feel like the fact that I have to go through with this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that want to express themselves, and want to be a strong woman. They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”