Under the tutelage of Sascha Bajin, a former hitting partner and part of Serena Williams’ coaching team, Naomi Osaka made no mistake in converting the two break point chances she got for a double break cushion in the first set. Frustratingly for Williams she had two chances to get one of the breaks back, but to no avail – there was another game on the board for Williams but nor much else as Osaka won her first set in a Slam final.
Williams steadied her nerves by getting a game on the board before an additional level of spice hit the match as Williams was warned for coaching – what looked like a thumbs up was shown to be some kind of hand-gestures, but it started to have the required effect.
Williams’ intensity rose, as she continued to seethe at the violation and for the first time, despite some amazingly clutch play from Osaka to save three break points, Osaka started to look as through she was weakening, as William made good on her fourth break point chance.
It did not last though, as Osaka broke back, Williams broke her racquet and to add insult to injury she picked up a point penalty. Things went from bad to worse rapidly, as Williams refused to let the situation go with Carlos Ramos.
In a heated exchange with the umpire, Williams demanded an apology for the code violation, before referring to him as a thief and a liar, for which she earned a game penalty.
With neither player knowing what had happened, Ramos had to explain the situation, which prompted an emotional Williams to call for the tournament refer and the WTA Supervisor. In tears, she tried to argue her case to no avail, and held, before talking once more the supervisor in tears.
The moment was inevitable. Osaka somehow managed to maintain her composure in the most extraordinary of circumstances to win her first major. It was at least a warm embrace from Williams to Osaka, but while pressure still sits in her shoulders to get No, 24, Osaka is the first Japanese player male or female to win a Slam title.
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Osaka’s fearless hitting and her absolute refusal to allow herself to be intimidated – her winning the first set showed that before any of the controversy that clouded the second set. She kept her nerve while literally all about her were losing theirs, and closed out the win on her second match point.
With the crowd booing the start of the trophy presentation, Williams had to ask the crowd not to boo anymore, before finally Osaka got the recognition she deserved from a frankly undeserving crowd.
Williams said: “She played well, this is her first Grand Slam. … Let’s make this the best moment we can. … Congratulations Naomi. … No more booing.”
Osaka, who had been so composed during the match looked as though she wanted to be anywhere but there as she started to cry as the booing started, before her own speech.
She said: “I know that everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”
She went on to say that it had always been her dream to play Williams in the final of the US Open. Finally the smiles came once the presentation was over, and in all probably she would have won the match anyway just from the level that she played throughout the match.
The US Open concludes with the men’s final, at 4pm (9pm BST).
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