The US Open finals saw the 20-year-old Haitan Japanese Naomi Osaka go head to head with the twenty-three time Grand Slam champion, Serena Williams and ended with a lot of buzz, but not for the reasons you might think.
The stakes of the match which in itself makes for an interesting story line, “Young female athlete takes on veteran Tennis superstar for the gold, in her first ever Grand Slam appearance” surprisingly ended 6-2 6-4 in Osaka’s favour.
Without doubt, Osaka was in the driver’s seat for most of the match, thanks, in large parts to the controversial calls – regardless of how high stakes and close to call the first two sets were.
In all, it was an interesting and competitive match and the Japanese player ended up winning her first major trophy. All of this was, however, overshadowed by the drama that ensued during and after the match.
Serena Williams outburst during the bout, has been a subject of discussion for the past few days. Among other things, she literally stopped an ongoing game to address the umpire for calling a coaching violation on her, which is in clear breach of the International Tennis Federation Grand Slam rule.
In an interview, Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou admitted to coaching her, stating that, most coaches are guilty of the same crime, and none have been punished so severely, adding that she might not have been looking, and that is why she denied cheating.
Williams tried to dispel the umpire’s claim, stating that “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.” But she was given a warning.
Her second offence came when she slammed her racket out of frustration, and this earned her, her first official penalty evidently resulting in a point penalty.
Williams became irate, telling Ramos that the verbal warning should have been issued for the racket slam and not a false coaching claim.
Later on, during a timeout, Serena Williams had another altercation with Carlos Ramos, demanding an apology, and when he gave none she proceeded to a verbal misconduct, accusing him of stealing a point from her, and then called him a thief. This earned her a second penalty, which ultimately cost her a game.
Reacting to all of this, Serena Williams claimed that the penalties were a product of sexism and racism, stating that men say far worse and conduct themselves in more inappropriate manners and the severity of the calls are not the same. She stated that there was a double standard in the sport, and she always have had to endure such bias towards her.
Looking back at Williams’ career, it is difficult to dispute the fact. She has had to endure so much adversity. There have been games where the officials made questionable calls against her. But in this case the umpire operated within the rules and they were definitely not sexist or racially motivated.
Sport’s analyst, Steven A. Smith, stated that, although he has respect for Williams and thinks she is the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), going on record to say that if she were male, she would definitely be the greatest tennis player ever.
He also added that she was clearly wrong and the umpire was within his rights to give those penalties.
He continued by saying that the umpire in question had a history of being disciplined, citing some examples, some of which involved big names like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Even after the game, boos were hailed down by the enraged crowd during the trophy ceremony, but thankfully Williams used her influence to restore some calm, giving Osaka a more respectable victory ceremony.
At the end of the game, it was all love between Williams and Osaka – the two shared a moment. Serena congratulated her and even gave her an embrace. During a post-game press conference, while trying to describe the moment, Osaka got emotional.
There have been mixed reactions from fans of the game since Saturday, reactions ranging from enthusiasts whose opinions support Williams’ actions, stating that she is fighting the good fight, to negative reactions going as far as making racist caricature animations of the tennis superstar, looking like a 60’s version of a Disney cartoon Negro description.
Despite the different opinions from spectators and analysts, Serena still maintains her stand. She said in the post-game conference, that she is fighting for women’s right and this happens, stating that “He’s never taken a game from a man because he said “thief”.”