After all those accusations and meltdowns Saturday night, here’s all that Serena Williams accomplished: she stole the moment from an opponent who was better than her, turning the greatest day of Naomi Osaka’s life into an embarrassment.
Osaka is just 20 years old, remember. And she had to pull down her visor in shame at the podium as the pro-Serena crowd booed viciously. Williams, to her credit, told the fans to cease the jeers. But it was all too late. The victory felt tainted, even though Osaka should’ve been celebrating like she toppled a titan, fair and square.
Osaka severely outplayed her idol Saturday in the 6-2, 6-4 wipeout, and she couldn’t even hold up her head. For the first time in recent memory of awards ceremonies, the tears of the winner were assumed to be rooted in shame. It was so difficult to watch. And let’s face it — it’s all because Williams is a sore loser.
We can debate the ruling of coach’s interference – which her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, acknowledged happened – but Williams smashed her racket out of frustration with herself. She had been pummeled in the first set by Osaka, and had just given back a break in the second set after two double faults. The match was slipping away.
That had nothing to do with the umpire, Carlos Ramos, whom Williams then decided was a sexist “thief.”
“You owe me an apology,” Williams repeated, continuing to berate Ramos.
At one point the head of referees, Brian Earley, was summoned by Williams, and the tennis star told him, “Always something happens to me here. …Because I’m a woman you’re going to do this to me.”
Williams declared her outburst was in the name of “fighting for women’s rights.”
It’s hard to understand when Williams would have previously seen herself as a victim at Flushing. Perhaps she’s talking about the incident with the lines judge in 2009, when Williams was called for a foot fault in the semifinal and told the woman judge, “I’m going to shove this [expletive] ball down your [expletive] throat.” In that instance, just like Saturday, Williams was losing. She later referenced her 2004 defeat to Jennifer Capriati, when multiple questionable calls went against Williams.
But it’s ridiculous to think the U.S. Open is out to get Williams. She’s the main attraction. She brings the excitement. If anything, the tournament officials should want her to win.
Williams seemed to have a different perspective about an hour after the match.
“Sometimes it might seem like things always happen, but you just kind of have to try to realize that it’s coincidence. Maybe it’s coincidence,” Williams said.
We get it: Serena is a fierce competitor. She’s a bully on the court. It’s what makes her the greatest tennis player of all time, the type of personality who can bounce back from a difficult pregnancy and within a year reach the finals of the U.S. Open.
But she wasn’t cheated Saturday. She lost to a player who was overpowering her. She couldn’t land her first serve. She ran out of answers. She had a meltdown because she knew she lost.