On Saturday, September 8, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka became the female US Open Champion after defeating one of her idols, Serena Williams, in Queens. While most in Osaka’s position would be thrilled for the title, her win was slightly overshadowed by controversy.
The umpire of the match, Carols Ramos, gave Serena Williams three violations throughout the match; First, for receiving “illegal coaching” from her player box during the first set. Second, for breaking her racket and third, for “verbal abuse” after Williams told Ramos: “You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry… And you stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too!”
According to the Associated Press, Williams was later fined $17,000 for the violations. The tournament referee’s office deducted $1.85 million prize money $10,000 for verbally abusing the umpire, $4,000 for receiving a warning about coaching, and $3,000 for breaking a racket.
As the match ended and the audience was up in arms, Williams told the crowd to give Osaka her moment. “I know that everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match,” Osaka said at the time.
In her first TV interview following the win, Osaka shared the reason why she apologized. “I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there. I know that the ending wasn’t how people wanted it to be. I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match. I don’t know, I just felt very emotional, and I felt like I had to apologize.”
She admitted that she didn’t even know how to take the win at first.
“I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted,” she said. “And then I also could sympathize because I’ve been a fan of Serena my whole life and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win.”