Naomi Osaka won a highly-charged US Open final over Serena Williams to claim her first Grand Slam title.
The 20-year-old from Japan – the first from her country to win a Grand Slam title – played a composed, intelligent final to win 6-2 6-4 over Williams, who unravelled after a succession of code violations from chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
It was an eerily similar course of events to those in her 2009 semifinal against Kim Clijsters and 2011 final against Sam Stosur at the same tournament, both matches she also lost after altercations with officials.
The third of those code violations in Saturday’s final resulted in a stunning game penalty, putting Osaka 6-2 5-3 up and a game away from the biggest title of her career.
When she served for the match a game later she made no mistake, pounding an ace to reach double match point and converting her second with another unreturnable serve.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2018
During a trophy presentation marred by booing from the crowd – which had persisted since the third of the code violations – Williams comforted Osaka, who broke down in tears on the dais.
“She played well and this is her first Grand Slam. I know you guys were here rooting (for me) and I was rooting too but let’s make this the best moment we can and we’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due and let’s not boo anymore. We’re gonna get through this and let’s be positive. Congratulations Naomi. No more booing,” Williams said.
Said Osaka: “It was always my dream to play Serena in the US Open finals, so I’m really glad that I was able to do that. I’m really grateful I was able to play with you, thank you.”
Heartbreaking scene as Naomi’s special moment was drowned in boos, Serena trying to cheer her up. pic.twitter.com/fme5e3j8g7
— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) September 8, 2018
Osaka played an impeccable opening set, in essence beating Williams at her own game.
Big serves were followed up by back-court power and excellent court coverage, a combination that proved overwhelming against the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
Not helping matters for Williams was her serve; she double faulted in each of her service games in the first set and at one stage was landing less than 40 per cent of her first serves.
In the second game of the second set, things started to unravel.
Ramos gave Williams a code violation for coaching; her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, did appear to be making signals with his hands.
Williams was furious, saying she never received coaching and would never cheat. She managed to channel her anger effectively en route to a 3-1 lead, breaking Osaka on her fourth opportunity in what was arguably the best game of the match.
Yet back-to-back double faults in the next game saw Williams drop serve; she flung her racquet in disgust, breaking it in the process.
That prompted a second code violation, and a point penalty. When Williams realised that she was already down 15-0 in the sixth game, she reacted even more strongly.
Osaka would win that game to love, and then broke serve in the next game with a scorching winner to move ahead 4-3.
At the changeover that followed, Williams directed a verbal tirade at Ramos – primarily demanding an apology for the first violation related to the coaching incident – that prompted him to issue her a third violation.
That saw Williams docked an entire game, and she fell behind 5-3.
All hell broke loose.
With the 23,000-strong crowd booing vociferously, the tournament referee and WTA supervisor were called to the court, where they spoke Williams – who by this point was in tears.
The penalty stood, and somehow Williams managed to hold serve to force her young opponent to serve for the title.
Incredibly, amid the most dramatic and chaotic scenes perhaps ever seen in a Grand Slam final, Osaka managed to do it.
.@Naomi_Osaka_ makes her childhood dreams come true!
— WTA (@WTA) September 8, 2018
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