Serena Williams’ quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title ended Saturday in a hail of arguments, tears and a broken racket.
Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old who grew up idolizing Williams, prevailed 6-2, 6-4 in the U.S. Open final after Williams melted down in the second set. Irate that she was assessed a warning because her coach Patrick Mouratoglou appeared to be gesturing to her to move up closer to the net early in the second set, Williams lost her poise. She broke her racket and screamed at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, getting a point violation for the racket abuse and a game for the verbal abuse.
Osaka’s quickness and raw power were too much for Williams, whose temper was aflame. After Ramos announced the warning for the coaching violation, she told him during a changeover, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose. I’m just letting you know.”
However, she didn’t drop the subject and instead told him, “I’ve never cheated in my life. You owe me an apology. I have a daughter. I stand for what’s right.” She later added, “You will never, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry. How dare you insinuate that I was cheating?
“You stole a point from me. You’re a thief.”
She also berated tournament officials and said male players had committed worse offenses and had not been punished as she had been.
Osaka, born in Japan but raised in nearby Long Island, remained admirably calm while the chaos was swirling around her. Williams embraced her at the net, though the crowd booed the outcome. Osaka, a first-time Grand Slam finalist who was not quite 2 years old when Williams won the first of her six U.S. Open titles here, clinched the victory on her second championship point and climbed into the stands to hug her mother, Tamaki, and her team.
Williams refused to shake Ramos’ hand at the end and fans booed the on-court trophy presentations. Osaka cried, and Williams put an arm around the younger player’s shoulders to console her.
“I don’t want to be rude. I don’t want to do questions. She played well. This is her first Grand Slam,” Williams said during an on-court interview. “Let’s make this the best moment we can. We’ll get through it. Let’s not boo anymore … Congratulations Naomi. No more booing.”
Osaka, the first Japanese tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles final, cried during the ceremony in which the two finalists got their trophies and Osaka got a $3.8 million winner's check. "I know that everyone was cheering for her and I'm sorry that it had to end like this," she said. "I just want to say thank you for watching the match."