On Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Open in Flushing Meadows, New York, Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old breakthrough tennis star representing Japan, triumphed over long-time champion Serena Williams amid public scrutiny.
Williams has garnered review from the public and tennis community alike for her emotional outburst which caused her to lose crucial game points.
Initially, Williams was penalized for receiving signals from her coach, an action that has been regarded by some as an “old-fashioned penalty.” She was penalized twice more, once for a broken racket and then again for verbal abuse against chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
Billie Jean King, winner of 12 grand slam titles, commented in a piece to the Washington Post,
“If tennis would catch up with the 21st century and allow coaching on every point, the situation on the court would never have escalated to the level of absurdity that it did.”
King also commented on William’s controversial emotional outburst directed at the umpire, which cost her the game.
“Ramos chose to give Williams very little latitude in a match where the stakes were highest. Granted, Williams could have taken some responsibility and moved on after the first warning,” King wrote.
The International Tennis Federation has defended the chair umpire who doled out the code violations to Williams, saying “[Ramos’] decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules.” The governing body also commented that “Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”
Naomi Osaka, when asked about how she reacted to the outburst from Williams and fans, told NBC’s “Today” show, “Before I knew it, there was a game penalty. I was a little bit confused throughout the whole thing. In my dreams, I won a very tough, competitive match. I felt very emotional, I felt like I had to apologize.”
Osaka’s coach, Sascha Bajin, told the New York Times, “[Naomi] Got everything thrown at her: big bombs by Serena, the crowd, the drama. She remained with her composure. There are certain things you can train yourself to do; other things you just have, and I believe it’s a gift, what Naomi has.”
Regardless, the emotionally-charged match showcased Osaka’s talent, and exposed the relatively unknown 20-year-old to the public eye. Osaka grew up idolizing Williams, and her performance during this match stunned audiences. By the time Osaka had scored against Williams twice, the audience was shocked that she was able to combat the woman who has been a powerhouse in tennis since Osaka herself was barely able to walk.
During the match, Osaka struck twice as many aces as Williams. She also won 73 percent of the points on her first serve and was able to combat Williams’ serve by winning 45 percent of the return points.
Osaka maintained her composure after a game was deducted from Williams’ score for the aforementioned verbal abuse towards the umpire. Her final serve was serenaded by the crowd’s echoed booing directed at the confrontation between Williams and Ramos. She managed to stay focused, served wide, and won the title.