Naomi Osaka made history for herself and Japan with her first Grand Slam title at the US Open – but that was only half the story as Serena Williams repeatedly clashed with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
The arguments eventually cost the 23-time Grand Slam champion a third code violation, which resulted in a game penalty that put Osaka ahead 6-2 5-3.
Osaka won the match two games later – and her first Grand Slam title – but broke down in tears during a trophy presentation marred by booing from the crowd, who were expressing their disapproval not of Osaka, but of the situation that unfolded during the second set.
Here is what happened:
Williams was issued with her first code violation, for coaching. Patrick Mouratoglou, her coach since 2012, was seen on camera making hand signals and later admitted to coaching.
— Ashish TV Slams (@ashishtvslams) September 8, 2018
Whether or not Serena saw the signals is another story. But she was not happy with the ruling, and confronted Ramos.
“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,” she said.
“I do not cheat to win. I would rather lose. I’m just letting you know,” she said.
Osaka held for 1-1 and then Williams held for 2-1; at the changeover that followed, the American continued to have words with Ramos.
After dropping serve in the fifth game, Williams threw her racquet and broke it. It prompted a second code violation and a point penalty.
Going to need another Racquet pic.twitter.com/ztG2E26Pyq
— ?arcusD (@_MarcusD2_) September 8, 2018
Walking back onto court after the changeover, Williams headed to the deuce side of the court to receive serve, apparently unaware that she had been docked a point penalty and that the score was in fact already 15-0 to Osaka.
“This is unbelievable, every time I play here I have problems,” she said while approaching Ramos, still believing she was only at the warning stage of the code violation process.
Ramos explained that her first warning related to her coaching violation and that this was her second violation.
“I didn’t get coaching!” she protested, before twice repeating her point. “You need to make an announcement that I didn’t get coaching. I don’t cheat. How can you say that?
“You owe me an apology! I have never cheated in my life! I have a daughter and I understand what’s right for her.
“You will never do another one of my matches!”
A furious Williams then turned her back on the umpire and walked back to the baseline to resume play.
After Osaka broke Williams with a forehand winner, Serena returned to her courtside chair and resumed her argument with Ramos.
She finished off by saying: “You stole a point from me! You’re a thief too.”
It prompted Ramos to issue her a third warning, for verbal abuse – a decision resulting in a game penalty against Williams.
Suddenly, Osaka was now ahead 6-2 5-3, and just one game away from the title.
Serena was incredulous. “Are you kidding me? ‘Cause I said you’re a thief? Because you stole a point from me,” she said.
“I told you to apologise to me. This is out – excuse me, I need the referee.”
Tournament referee Brian Earley and Grand Slam supervisor Donna Kelso came onto the court to talk to Williams, who by this point was in tears.
As boos rang out throughout Arthur Ashe Stadium, Williams tried to reason with them.
“This is not fair. There are a lot of men out here who have said a lot of things but because they are men, that doesn’t happen to them,” she said.
Despite her arguments, the call stood. Earley and Kelso left the court, and Serena was now serving to stay in the match.
She held, but could not stop Osaka from serving out the match in the next game.
Following the final, the WTA issued a statement.
“There are matters that need to be looked into that took place during the match,” it said.
“For tonight, it is time to celebrate these two amazing players, both of whom have great integrity. Naomi is a deserving champion and Serena at all times plays with class and makes us proud.”
The tournament followed up with a statement of its own.
“The chair umpire’s decision was final and not reviewable by the Tournament Referee or the Grand Slam Supervisor, who were called to court at that time.”
Everyone had an opinion.
Emotional first take by me. common sense should’ve prevailed in my opinion. He’s within his power to make that call. I’ve seen an umpire borderline coach a player up,and another dock a game for being called a thief in same tourney. There needs to be some continuity in the future https://t.co/T5oI1M0Cu7
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) September 8, 2018
This is bs
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) September 8, 2018
Vesnina in Twitter: 'Serena has crossed the line here. She was wrong and she deprived Naomi her moment of joy after her biggest win in her career. Osaka played better tonight'
— Ilya Ryvlin (@ryvlin) September 8, 2018
This had to be the toughest trophy presentation ????
— Daria Gavrilova (@Daria_gav) September 8, 2018
Mouratoglou, after admitting to coaching, took to Twitter to question the influence of the umpire over the match.
“The star of the show has been once again the chair umpire. Second time in this US Open and third time for Serena in a US Open final,” he wrote.
“Should they be allowed have an influence on the result of a match? When do we decide that this should never happen again?”
Chris Evert, speaking on ESPN, ran with Serena’s argument that the third code violation displayed a gendered double-standard.
“The third time (warning), to call someone a thief, when we’ve heard other players, mostly men, saying four-letter words, I kind of wonder if that merited a game (penalty),” she said.
“I don’t think it did.”
In her press conference, Williams gave her thoughts on that third code violation.
“For me to say ‘thief’, and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark,” she said. “He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’.”
“For me it blows my mind.”
23 August 2016
You can recognise your favourite tennis players when they're on the court, but what about ... More
29 April 2016
Victory was never out of the question when Bernard Tomic faced 17-time Grand Slam champion... More
17 November 2019
Wimbledon finalist and former world No.4 Tomas Berdych has announced his retirement from t... More