by Catherine Rhegness
Serena Williams came into the U.S. Open final hoping to win her 24th major title against 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, fighting to win her first major title. In the first set, Serena was only making 38% of her first serves, whereas Naomi was making 75%. Serena came out strong winning the first game of the second set on serve. Patrick Mouratoglou (Serena’s coach) stated that he doesn’t think she was back to her best tennis in the Wimbledon final and believes she is playing a lot better here, but her serving percentage is extremely low.
In the second game of the second set, Serena got a warning for coaching. Patrick Mouratoglou gave her a thumbs up, but Serena claims he was just telling her good job and they don’t have a code. She stated, “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.” At the end of the match, her coach stated he was coaching, but doesn’t think she knew he was. When Serena switched sides at 2-1 she reassured the referee that she’s never gotten a coaching violation and again, would never cheat. After four breakpoints on Naomi’s serve, Serena won the game to take the lead at 3-1. After two double faults in a row, then making an unforced error, Serena slams her racket on the ground after losing on her serve. Since she already got a warning, she had to start on her serve down a point. She claims that she didn’t get coaching, so she should only have a warning and says that this happens every time she plays here. In her defense, data backs up that statement. Similar incidents at the Open happened in 2004. 2009, and 2011.
Serena demanded the ref, Carlos Ramos, to announce she didn’t get coaching, but he saw what he saw and was just doing his job. She told him that he owed her an apology, but he wouldn’t apologize. She said, “I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her and you owe me an apology.” Serena lost her serve, to make her down 3-4. Serena told the ref, “You stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too.” Serena got a code violation for verbal abuse and was deducted a game to make the score 3-5. Serena asked for the tournament referee to discuss the issue. Serena told the tournament referee, “There are men out here who do a lot worse than me, but because I’m a woman you are going to take this away from me? That is not right.”Studies show that is not true. In total 1,517 men have been charged with a code violation since 1998, when only 535 women have been charged for code violations.
Serena ended up losing the match 6-2 6-4 to Naomi Osaka. Serena refused to shake the referee’s hand at the end and told him he would never ref one of her matches ever again. Unfortunately, the disputes took the spark out of the win for Osaka and made it not as special as it should have been. This match will be one many will remember for years to come.