Special for USA TODAY Sports
Published 9:27 PM EDT Sep 8, 2018
NEW YORK — One day there’s likely to be a 24th Grand Slam title for Serena Williams, but it wasn't Saturday.
Naomi Osaka dominated in her first career Grand Slam final to take a 6-2, 6-4 win in a match that saw Williams implode on court during the second set in perhaps the most controversial Grand Slam finish ever.
Osaka, the first Japanese man or woman to score a Grand Slam singles trophy, could hardly enjoy this career milestone because of how the match unfolded.
It was filled with outbursts from Williams — who became incensed over calls from the chair umpire — and both she and Osaka were in tears. During the award ceremony, Osaka pulled her visor down as the crowd booed.
Williams, still in tears, put her arms around Osaka in an attempt to right the situation for the 20-year-old, who says she idolizes the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
"Well, I don't wanna be rude, she played well and this is her first Grand Slam," Williams said after the match, as she fought back tears. "Let's make this the best moment we can, let's give credit where credit is due and no more booing. Congratulations Naomi!"
"Thank you to the crowd, you really are the best in the world. I really hope to play here again, it's been a tough year but thank you so much."
Everyone in Osaka's box was reduced to tears — including her mother and Williams' former hitting coach Sascha Bajin, Osaka's first-year coach.
Osaka apologized to the crowd.
“I know that everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just wanted to say thank you for watching the match," she said.
In the second game of the second set, Williams was issued a warning for coaching by umpire Carlos Ramos. Williams told Ramos that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, gave her a thumbs-up, which is just a C'mon.
"I don't cheat to win, I'd rather lose," Williams was heard telling Ramos.
A TV replay of Mouratoglou showed him motioning with his two hands as if telling her to move forward. There was no thumbs-up sign.
After the match Mouratoglou admitted to Pam Shriver on ESPN TV that he was coaching. He also said everyone does it and usually is not called for it.
That incident was just a precursor to a scene that would find Williams losing a point, and then a game.
A frustrated Williams, who was ahead 3-1 in the second set after breaking Osaka's serve in the fourth game, gave up the lead by losing her own serve in the fifth game.
Losing that momentary lead in a game where she double-faulted twice was too much for Williams to handle and she took it out on her racket, which she smashed into the ground.
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She received a point penalty for that action, which allowed Osaka to start serving the sixth game at 15-0. It was the combination of the code violation for coaching and the racket abuse charge that surmounted to the loss of the point called by Ramos.
After realizing she was already down a point in the game that Osaka would go on to hold at love, Williams walked off the baseline to start yelling again at Ramos.
"You owe me an apology," she told him. "I've never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what's right.”
After losing her serve to Osaka in the seventh game, Williams admonished Ramos again during the changeover.
”You owe me an apology. You stole a point from me. You're a thief, too,” were some of the comments she hurled at the umpire.
Ramos then called another infraction on Williams for verbal abuse, which meant a game penalty, which awarded the eighth game to Osaka, and found Williams serving the ninth game.
At that point, Williams called for referee Brian Earley, who came to the court with Grand Slam supervisor Donna Kelso. She pleaded her case through tears to the two of them, insisting she is always treated unfairly at this event - and that men have called umpires much worse and not been penalized - but there was no budge in the score.
The US Open released a statement after the match that said, in part: "The chair umpire's decision was final and not reviewable by the Tournament Referee or the Grand Slam Supervisor who were called to the court at that time."
Williams went on to win the ninth game at love before Osaka won her first Grand Slam title on a second match point in the 10th game.
Williams came into the match carrying a 2-7 record when losing the first set in a Grand Slam final.
The WTA issued a statement later Saturday evening:
"Congratulations to both Naomi and Serena for reaching the final at the 50th anniversary of the US Open and to Naomi for winning her first Grand Slam title. They both played superb tennis throughout the US Open.
"There are matters that need to be looked into that took place during the match. For tonight, it is time to celebrate these two amazing players, both of whom have great integrity.
"Naomi is a deserving champion and Serena at all times plays with class and makes us proud."
And USTA Chairman of the Board and President Katrina Adams issued a statement that said in part:
"What Serena did on the podium today showed a great deal of class and sportsmanship. This was Naomi's moment, and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it. That was a class move from a true champion.
"What Serena has accomplished this year in playing her way back on to the tour is truly amazing. She continues to inspire, because she continues to strive to be the best.
"... I know that she was frustrated about the way the match played out, but the way she stepped up after the final and gave full credit to Naomi for a match well-played speaks volumes about who she is."
Like her previous two matches, Williams got off to a slow start. Osaka got out to a quick 4-1 lead behind two breaks of serve. Osaka's pinpoint placement forced Williams to lay back instead of approaching the net. She served for the set to win 6-2.
Osaka, 20, who admitted after reaching the final she was thrilled with the opportunity to face her favorite player for the title, showed no fear.
She jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead in the first set by breaking Williams, who was struggling to get her first serve in, twice.
Osaka defeated Williams earlier this year at the Miami Open, but Williams was early in her comeback and since has advanced to two Grand Slam finals. She lost at Wimbledon to Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3.
Contributing: Heather Tucker