Twenty-year-old Naomi Osaka won her first Grand Slam title, defeating her idol, Serena Williams, in a bizarre and memorable U.S. Open final that descended into spectacle when Williams angrily protested several penalties she was issued.
Osaka took down Williams 6-2, 6-4 to claim a historic victory of her own, becoming the first Japanese woman to win a Grand Slam final. But this certainly isn’t the way Osaka wanted to beat her idol.
Williams, 36, and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, were accused of communicating during the match when he was seen making hand signals to her. Williams was warned for illegal coaching, and she forcefully protested. “I have never cheated in my life,” she told the umpire, Carlos Ramos. “I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her.”
She was then docked a point when she smashed her racket. Late in the second set, she was penalized again, this time for saying to Ramos, “You stole a point from me, you’re a thief, too.”
Williams was livid.
“Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?” she said. “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. Excuse me, I need a referee.”
The final penalty meant Osaka was awarded a game, giving her a 5-3 lead in the second set. Williams held her serve for 5-4, but Osaka won the match in the next game for a final score of 6-2, 6-4.
The U.S. Tennis Association later released a statement on the umpire’s calls: “The chair umpire’s decision was final and not reviewable by the tournament referee [Brian Earley] or the Grand Slam supervisor [Donna Kelso] who were called to the court at that time.”
Ramos wasn’t available for comment.
After the match, the crowd booed loudly as ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi began the trophy ceremony. When Williams was asked to speak, she tried to calm the fans and shed a few tears.
“Well, I don’t want to be rude; I just wanted to tell you guys she played well,” Williams said. “Let’s make this the best moment we can. Let’s not boo anymore.”