The women’s single tournament in this year’s US Open has cemented itself as being historical due to several factors. Many of these criteria is related to Japan, which while they have been able to send competitors to Grand Slam events has never placed high in the brackets, much less win a title. Both these figurative ceilings were broken by plucky Naomi Osaka, who finally got her first Grand Slam title after eleven outings, on her third US Open appearance; and done by beating World Champion Serena Williams to boot. But it also happened on one of the Open’s most controversial Finals matches in recent history.
Reuters reports that Naomi Osaka put her country on the world professional tennis map by defeating Serena Williams in two straight sets during the finals match of the 2018 US Open last Saturday, September 8. On paper it was an impressive victory with 6-2 and 6-4, but on the scene it had descended into some semblance of pure chaos due to the ironclad enforcement of tournament rules by the umpire of the day, Carlos Ramos. Williams for her part would accuse Ramos of sexism, while the audience was incensed at the treatment of their idol.
While the first set played normally enough (aside from Osaka going 6-2 over Williams), it was set 2 that defined how this match would be remembered. It started with Umpire Ramos’ calling of a code violation for catching Serena’s coach giving her hand signals during play. This was followed by a point penalty incurred when Williams apparently broke her racket in frustration when Osaka scored 3-2. “Strike 3” came at 4-3 when Serena leveled accusations against Ramos for lying and point theft, leading to a game penalty (5-3) that put Osaka needing only one more game to win the match.
With the Japanese player’s victory, Serena was again foiled in her quest to match the 24- title count of Margaret Court. The fans did not like the results more than she did; but when they flooded the court with boos during the US Open trophy ceremony, causing Naomi Osaka to shy away from cameras, the former champion comforted her and admonished the crowd. “We’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone the credit where credit is due, and let’s not boo anymore,” said Williams.. “No more booing! . . . Thank you, guys, the crowd, you really are the best in the world.”
Naomi Osaka, age 20, is a “hafu” with a Japanese mother and Haitian father. She holds dual Japanese and US citizenship due to her father living in the country before moving to Japan. With her win over Serena Williams in the US Open, her world ranking is now Number 7.
Image from The New Yorker