Updated: Nov 28, 2018
It is an understatement to say that the 2018 Women's U.S. Open final was absolutely crazy, and everybody is taking sides.
23,771 people piled into Arthur Ashe stadium in Flushing Meadows, Queens to see Serena Williams win her 24th major, tying Margaret Court's all time record, and first since returning from her pregnancy. Instead 20-year-old Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese born player to ever win the U.S. Open. Unfortunately, it's the controversy surrounding Serena Williams that is overshadowing Osaka's historic win.
If you viewed the video posted above it shows the entire altercation between Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos. Serena's coach did admit to coaching, but that does not mean that Williams even heard him. Williams stated to Ramos that she would rather lose than cheat. Why would Serena cheat? She has won 23 majors and is considered one of the top athletes of this generation. The first thing that is wrong with this entire controversy is that after the game where Ramos called Williams out for cheating, Williams is heard saying "I would never cheat" and Ramos responds with "I know that". It was not made clear that Williams had a violation called on her because it seems that when it was discussed, Ramos and Williams came to an understanding that Williams did not receive coaching. It was to my understanding that she was unaware a violation was called on her for cheating. If Williams knew that a penalty was called on her for coaching, and was not issued as a warning, than she would have known not to slam her racket which forfeited a point.
Williams has shown her short temper before. She even states to Ramos during their altercation "Every time I play here I've fought". During the 2009 U.S. Open semifinals, Serena was disqualified on match point because she was accused of telling an official she will "Shove this ball down your throat" after a foot violation was called on her. At the 2011 U.S. Open finals, she argued with the umpire telling him that he is "out of control" and he shouldn't look at her.
Carlos Ramos has had his fair share of controversies as well. This year at the French Open, Rafael Nadal got two violations for slow play and later he said Ramos was pressuring Nadal about coaching. “I say it with sadness, but he is an umpire who scrutinizes me more and who fixates on me more” Nadal said after his French Open match. It's understandable that officials might watch the best players in the game closely. They want to make the match as interesting as possible to make sure it's not a rout. Unless a clear cut violation is committed, the umpires need to just do their jobs and let the match play out. The fact that Ramos decided to give a point and game penalty to Williams is something that should not ever be done to anyone in a major championship match because it takes away from the champions win. In this case, that is exactly what happened to Naomi Osaka.
People are praising Serena Williams to have acted as a class act during the match. She did silence the crowd when they were booing after her game penalty, but when during the trophy ceremony Williams "tried" to give credit to Naomi Osaka by congratulating her, it all went wrong. Before she congratulated Osaka, Williams said "Let's make this the best moment we can, we will get through this". In the moment Williams stated "We will get through this" she made the match and trophy ceremony more about her loss than she did about Osaka's win.
Yes, Williams was probably right when she said to the referees that men do way worse in matches than she did, and they never get penalized. Think of the things that John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors said when they played, and no penalties were given. Times have changed and when Williams brought sexism into the conversation is created an entire new animal beyond tennis. It creates a political argument where people start discussing sexism in sports and whether or not Serena was a victim to it. It is no longer about Osaka's win. Has anyone in the past few days said "Wow, at 20 years old Naomi Osaka played a fantastic match against Serena Williams and became the first Japanese born player the U.S. Open" ? The answer is no. The discussions about the match are all about Serena and if she was robbed of her record 24th major win. Serena was right that Ramos was unfair, but the way she handled it made it all about her.
Let's not forget that Naomi Osaka easily won the first set 6 games to 2. Williams went up 3 games to 1 in the second set by the time this entire commotion started. When she smashed her racket, she had just lost a game and it was 3 games to 2 in the second set. Williams was still winning, and Serena has been in this game long enough to know that racket abuse is a violation. Williams then lost that point to start the next game already down 15-0. Williams then goes on to lose the next two games and fall down 4 games to 3 in the set.
The problem here is that Williams continued to nag on about the coaching violation to Ramos. Serena kept going on about how Ramos owed her an apology. She should have known that another penalty would cost her a game. Ramos on the other hand could have gave Williams a warning that if she kept running her mouth, it would cost her a game penalty. It took the words "you are a thief" for Ramos to call the verbal abuse penalty and cost Williams an entire game. A warning by Ramos to Williams could have prevented that. However, so would have Serena shutting her mouth.
There is one more thing that could have prevented all this from going on, Serena Williams winning fair and square. By the time Carlos Ramos issued the game penalty to Williams, Naomi Osaka would go up 5 games to 3. Osaka would only need one more to win. Serena came back and won another game to let the crowd get a little excited, but it was all but over. Serena was not mentally there, and many are surprised that she did not forfeit the match after the game penalty. However, her courage is much stronger than that and she decided to try to give it one last chance. Serena Williams is the greatest tennis has ever seen. She should have came out and easily beat the 20-year-old Osaka playing in her first major championship.
Instead Osaka came out and played great, as she had done the entire tournament. Osaka came back to take the lead in the second set before any game wins were given to Osaka without even playing them. During the trophy ceremony Osaka could not even smile or look up at the crowd because she felt so bad about everything that occurred. That is at the fault of both Williams and Ramos, not Osaka.
Naomi Osaka grew up in New York and used to sit in the nosebleeds of the U.S. Open. Now, she beat the greatest player the sport has ever seen, to win the tournament that she used to dream about playing in one day way up in the grandstands of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Nobody should take that away from her.