The U.S. Open Final on Saturday afternoon had the potential to be historic, as Serena Williams was striving for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam victory. But the road to potentially winning another major title was made much more complicated by a number of confrontations with the chair official of the championship match.
Williams was in the finals against Naomi Osaka on Saturday, and at one point, the umpire, Carlos Ramos, believed Williams received coaching from her box. Apparently, Williams was given a thumb’s up, though it’s not clear if she even saw the gesture. The umpire did, however, and penalized Williams a point in the match.
A tennis player cannot receive coaching during a match, which is the cause of the problem. Williams was adamant that she did not cheat, which led to a heated exchange between herself and the chair umpire.
“I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose,” Williams said, drawing cheers from the crowd overhearing the exchange. Later in the match, after further interactions between the two, Williams was penalized an entire game. It’s a major penalty, especially in a major final.
It led to Williams asking for an apology from the official as the match slipped out of her grasp.
“You owe me an apology,” Williams said. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I’ve never cheated, and you owe me an apology. You will never do another one of my matches.”
“And you stole a point from me,” Williams said according to the New York Times. “You’re a thief.”
Williams lost the match to Osaka in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, on Saturday. After the match and the customary handshake between players and the umpire, Williams once again asked for an apology as boos filled the stadium.
The moment overshadows the first U.S. Open championship for Osaka — who was outstanding on the afternoon and, controversy aside, was only broken once and deserved to take down Williams. History was still made, too, as Osaka became the first-ever Grand Slam singles champion for Japan.
In a post-match interview, Williams told the booing crowd to celebrate Osaka’s win and not ruin the moment for the budding star.
As for Williams, her record-tying 24th Grand Slam win will have to potentially wait until the Australian Open in January.