Serena Williams had a shot to make history on Saturday at the US Open. Instead, her shot at a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title ended in controversy with Naomi Osaka taking home the first major victory of her pro career while the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York booed.
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.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2018
The match ended in controversy and boos thanks to violations leveled by the chair umpire during the second set.
Osaka got off to a commanding start in the first set, then prevailed in what turned out to be a stunning second set. As Serena was attempting to play herself back into the match, she was warned because her coach was allegedly making hand signals, which is a code violation. Williams was upset by the violation, claiming that her coach was simply giving her a thumbs up and demanding an apology from chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
“You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life! I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her,” Williams told Ramos on the court. “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”
Williams remained upset and later smashed her racket on the court, which resulted in another violation — this time resulting in a point penalty. The penalty made the 36-year-old Williams even more angry, leading to her further chastising Ramos — including calling him a “thief.” Eventually, a full game penalty was leveled against Williams for berating an official.
Several US open officials eventually came onto the court to talk to Williams and try to calm her down. After several minutes of discussion, cooler heads prevailed and the match resumed.
Shortly after, Williams surrendered that second set and the match went to Osaka.
The match was followed by a very awkward and very surreal ceremony that featured both competitors looking solemn and upset. Williams attempted to downplay the controversy and console Osaka, who has long called Serena her idol, but the crowd booed in protest of the officiating during the match.
— Kofie (@KofieYeboah) September 8, 2018
Serena trying to comfort Naomi and telling the crowd not to boo anymore has me all in my feelings. This has all been surreal. pic.twitter.com/Q85memJKDa
— Chad (@CCSMOOTH13) September 8, 2018
Serena Willjams all class congratulating Naomi Osaka and deflecting controversy
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 8, 2018
For Williams, this is her second runner-up finish since returning to tennis following the birth of her daughter. She also finished second at Wimbledon this July, falling to Angelique Kerber in the final. She remains just one win away from 24 career Grand Slam singles titles, tying the all-time record held by Australia’s Margaret Court.
Osaka is now two for two in matches against Williams after beating her at the Miami Open in March earlier this year.