Naomi Osaka has won the US Open, taking down 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in the final on Saturday, 6-2, 6-4. Osaka, 20, is the first Japanese woman to win a Grand Slam, and she did it by beating one of the absolute best.
The 20-year old’s victory may have been overshadowed by chair umpire Carlos Ramos and Williams’ argument throughout the match. Ramos noticed that Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach was gesturing towards her and called a penalty for coaching. Williams was visibly heated as she stopped to talk to Ramos claiming, “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.”
"I don't cheat to win, I'd rather lose" - Serena Williams pic.twitter.com/3qwZHoq7Op— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) September 8, 2018
Coaching isn’t allowed during a match, albeit this is something that frequently occurs without punishment.
Williams’ frustration only grew from there, resulting in her breaking her racket. Then Williams called Ramos “a thief” during another argument, for which Ramos charged verbal abuse, her third conduct violation and a game penalty, nearly unprecedented in a grand slam final.
ESPN asked Mouratoglou about the coaching penalty. This was his response:
“I was coaching, but I don’t think she looked at me so that’s why she didn’t think I was. But I was, like 100% of the coaches, 100% of the matches, so we have to stop this hypocritical thing. Sascha [Bajin, Osaka’s coach] was coaching every single point too. It’s strange because this chair umpire was the chair umpire for most of the chair umpires of Rafa, and Tony’s coaching every single point and he never game him a warning. I don’t get it.”
Before accepting her trophy, teary-eyed Osaka said, “I know everyone was cheering for her, I’m sorry it had to end like this. Thank you for watching the match.”
Osaka is now 2-0 against Williams after the win, both wins coming this year following the birth of Williams’ first child. The recovery from that birth and the health complications that ensued have been very tough for Williams, but she was playing some of her best tennis in New York, and Osaka earned every bit of her huge win.
Prior to the US Open, Osaka hadn’t even been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal before.
Going into Saturday’s match, Osaka had never appeared in Grand Slam final, and had only faced Williams once before, beating her earlier this year in the opening round of the Miami Masters, 6-3, 6-2.
Osaka kept Williams on her back foot for much of the match, which is where she found most of her success. Her power was incredible, even on her returns, which frequently pushed Williams off-balance.
In the first set on Saturday, Williams and Osaka both held before Osaka earned an early break to go up 2-1. With Williams serving down 1-3, she got out to a 30-0 lead, but Osaka battled back for her second break.
Williams then had multiple break point opportunities on Osaka’s ensuing serve, but couldn’t make it stick, with Osaka taking a 5-1 lead. Williams held her next service game, forcing Osaka to serve for the set. She did, holding to take a set lead.
In the second set, both held to start, then Williams held was threatening a break up 2-1. Osaka saved the break multiple times, but Williams eventually got it to take a 3-1 lead. Then on her service game, Williams hit two double faults, giving Osaka a break opportunity, which she converted. Williams, at that point, smashed her racket, and got into a second heated argument with the chair umpire over potentially getting coaching.
Williams’ next two games were off, and she made multiple mistakes. Osaka kept her cool and earned a break over Williams as a result. Williams was then assessed a full game penalty and was arguing with the umpire even more. So Williams took penalties for coaching, breaking her racket, and then verbal abuse.
Instead of an Osaka service game, we got Williams serving to stay in the match. She held, but Osaka was serving for the championship at that point.
Osaka made her run to the final look easy, only being pushed to three sets once in a Round of 16 match against Aryna Sabalenka. Other than that, Osaka bested her opponents in straight sets: Laura Siegemund, Julia Glushko, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Lesia Tsurenko and, in the semifinals, Madison Keys.
The semifinal win over Keys was especially impressive. Keys is the 14th seed, and Osaka handled her easily, winning, 6-2, 6-4.
Williams’ run was also very impressive, with all but one match being won by straight sets. Kaia Kanepi, the woman who eliminated top seed Simona Halep, pushed Williams to three sets. But the rest, Williams dispatched in two, including Magda Linette, Carina Witthoeft, her sister, Venus Williams, eighth seed Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals and finally, Anastasija Sevastova in the semifinals.
Osaka has only made it as far as the fourth round of the Australian Open and the third round of the French Open and Wimbledon, the other three Grand Slam events.