Japan’s Naomi Osaka stunned Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final in New York. She defeated Williams in straight sets 6-2 6-4 to hand Williams her second straight Slam final defeat, thanks to a clutch performance that included strong serving and a show of offensive power from all corners of the court, even when pressured by Serena’s groundstrokes.
Serena started out poorly on serve while Osaka opened the match on fire, winning nearly 7 in 10 of her service points while Serena only took half. Osaka broke Williams twice, taking her first two break point chances, and then easily served the set out.
In set 2 Williams tried hard to fight back but was flustered by Osaka and the umpire Carlos Ramos. Serena tried to mix up her game, throwing in a drop shot and she broke Osaka to go up 3-1 in set 2, but Williams would get broken back twice in her next two service games, and she smashed her racquet in frustration. She was thrown by the chair umpire Ramos giving her a warning for coaching from the box by her coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Williams was outraged by the point penalty, suggesting she “doesn’t cheat to win, she’d rather lose” and accused Ramos of being a “thief.” Her boiling over not only led to a Osaka game, it also eventually cost her a game penalty for verbal abuse in the next changeover, putting Osaka up 6-2 5-3 without a single point played from 4-3 Osaka.
The Japanese #1, though leading, was then faced with the most difficult portion of the match, facing an embittered Serena that had riled up the New York crowd behind her as motivation. Williams, after serving to get to 4-5, continued to argue with tournament officials regarding the supposed unfairness of the game penalty, and suggesting her penalty was unfair compared to the penalties given to male players for confrontations with the umpire.
Osaka then went to the line, alone on the court, to serve out her first ever Grand Slam title in her first ever Grand Slam final. The 20-year-old had never previously gone beyond the 4th round of a Grand Slam, but despite the Williams vs Ramos theater she was clutch to serve out the match at 15 with another dominant service performance.
After the match Williams’ coach admitted he was coaching from the stands but said it was extremely common and Serena was punished unfairly regarding it. Despite how strong of a match Osaka played and the fact she was the better player on the court, much of the focus after the match and the conversation around the final will revolve around what happened to Serena and whether Ramos made the right move enforcing the penalties he did in the second set, penalties that certainly gave Osaka an advantage. During the trophy presentation the crowd was still jeering regarding the Williams penalty. Osaka clearly had mixed emotions regarding the final outcome.
Osaka looks to be a new star for women’s tennis; at just 20, she has many years to go on the WTA tour and at the Grand Slam level. With the confidence and skillset she has, it’s likely she’ll win multiple Slams.
For Serena, she’s still aiming to dethrone Margaret Court for the all-time Grand Slam record.