Serena Williams’ title as being named one of the Best Athletes of All Time was questioned during her match with Naomi Osaka, who is a self-proclaimed admirer of Williams, at the Women’s Final for the U.S. Open Saturday, Sept. 8.
During the second half of the match, Williams was warned for being assisted by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, who was making gestures towards her from the sidelines. Williams then walks over to the umpire’s chair, where she got into a heated argument with the umpire of the match, Carlos Ramos. “I don’t cheat to win,” Williams reassured Ramos that her coach giving her a thumbs up isn’t coaching before walking away to get back to the match, “I’d rather lose.”
After a few more sets, Serena Williams is given another warning, following a point penalty after she breaks her racquet. Because the first warning wasn’t disregarded, Williams then argues with Ramos that she shouldn’t have received a penalty since it should only be her first warning.
Ramos continues to stand by Williams receiving coaching, frustrating not only Williams but confusing the audience as to why this is happening to her. Williams demands that Ramos disregard her receiving coaching and tell the crowd that she doesn’t.
“You owe me an apology,” Williams yells up to Ramos. “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand to do what’s right for her and I have never cheated in my life. You owe me an apology!”
Williams sticks to her guns throughout the match, calling Ramos a “liar” for saying she was receiving coaching, and a “thief” for taking away a point. This gives her another penalty, but this time it’s a whole game being deducted from Williams. The day after the trophy ceremony, Williams was fined $17,000 (which would be taken out of her $1.85 million winnings as runner-up) and despite the struggles of this match, she wanted the spotlight to be on Naomi Osaka because it was her win that people should be celebrating, rather than focusing on her loss.
Regardless, the whole situation took the moment away from Osaka’s victory as the first Japanese-American woman to win the Women’s Singles Open title. As the trophy ceremony starts and ESPN reporter Tom Rinaldi greets the audience, the audience replies with uproars of booing. Williams herself even tried to get the crowd of 20,000-plus angered tennis fans to quiet down so they could continue with awarding Osaka. People wouldn’t have known Osaka was the victor because of the tears streaming down her face as Williams puts her arm around her and whispers encouraging words to the 20-year-old.
During the time of the ceremony, Osaka was worried the people were booing at her and during an interview with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, Osaka revealed “(Williams) said that she was proud of me and that I should know that the crowd wasn’t booing at me. So, I was really happy that she said that.”
She goes on to explain that at the time, she believed the audience was booing at her, possibly because Serena had lost, but that really goes to show just how much of a focus we put onto Williams. “I couldn’t tell what was going on at first because it was just so loud in there,” Osaka continues. “It was just a little bit stressful.”