Naomi Osaka became the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam singles title on Saturday as her idol Serena Williams angrily imploded, calling the chair umpire in the US Open final “a thief”.
Osaka, 20, triumphed 6-2, 6-4 in the match marred by Williams’s second set outburst, the American enraged by umpire Carlos Ramos’s warning for receiving coaching from her box.
“It doesn’t really feel that real right now. Maybe in a few days I’ll realize what I’ve done,” said Osaka, adding that the noise was so great in Arthur Ashe Stadium and her focus so single-minded that she wasn’t fully aware of the escalating controversy.
“When I turned around it was 5-3 so I was a little bit confused then,” she said of the game suddenly awarded to her.
“I felt like I had to focus. She’s such a great champion so I know she can come back from any point.”
Williams, seeking a first Grand Slam title since the birth of her daughter Olympia on September 1 2017, was denied a 24th Grand Slam title that would have matched Margaret Court’s all-time record.
As the pro-Williams crowed booed the trophy ceremony announcer, Osaka was tearing up herself, but Williams urged the spectators to show the young champion respect.
“She played well,” Williams said, pausing to compose herself.
“This is her first Grand Slam. Let’s make this the best moment we can.”
When it was Osaka’s turn she seemed at a loss, apologizing to the crowd.
“It was always my dream to play Serena in the US Open finals,” she added, turning to Williams herself.
“I’m really grateful I was able to play with you, thank you.”