Serena Williams stands as one of the most celebrated players of all-time following her illustrious career. However, her remarkable outburst in the 2018 US Open final is one moment the American phenom surely wishes she could have back.
Williams dominated women’s tennis for two decades, winning 23 Grand Slam titles to sit one behind Margaret Court for the most in women’s singles history. The pursuit of the 24th title and Court’s record that would prove elusive ultimately led to perhaps Williams’ most disappointing moment in her career.
Williams was bidding to win her 24th major crown when she faced the and up-and-coming Naomi Osaka. The Japanese star was contesting her first Grand Slam final at just 20 years of age, and she stunned the world with her epic performance.
Osaka, unfazed by the occasion nor the pedigree of her legendary opponent, secured a dramatic 6-2 6-4 win over Williams. However, the resulting headlines did not necessarily speak of Osaka’s achievement as it was overshadowed by Williams’ actions,
The 23-time Grand Slam champion branded umpire Carlos Ramos a ‘thief’ and demanded tournament referee Brian Earley to come out during her meltdown at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Initially, Williams was infuriated after she was awarded a code violation for ‘coaching’ from the box. “It was not coaching,” Williams fumed at Ramos. “I do not cheat to win. I would rather lose. I just want you to know that.”
She added: “I understand why you might have thought that, but I do want you to know I don’t cheat. Thank you very much.”
Williams’ frustration overflowed after Ramos gave her a further point penalty for smashing a racket. She yelled: “I have never cheated in my life. You owe me an apology! I have a daughter and I have not cheated in my life.”
The stunned fans at Flushing Meadows heavily supported Williams and began to boo the umpire. She silenced the crowd before continuing her rant at Ramos: “You will never be on another court of mine as long as you live.
“You are attacking my character and you owe me an apology. You are a liar. You will never umpire on a court of mine as long as you live. Give me my apology. You stole a point from me and you’re a thief too.”
Ramos subsequently called a third code violation, and docked her a game, before Earley made his way on court. As Williams pleaded her case with Earley on the court, she added: “Because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?”
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After the incident, Williams was docked £8,000 for ‘verbal abuse’ of umpire Ramos, £3,200 for being warned for coaching and £2,404 for smashing her racquet. The money was taken from her prize winnings of £1.48million, awarded for reaching the final.
Despite winning, Osaka burst into tears as the crowd continued to jeer the officials’ intervention. Williams also sobbed and put a hand around her opponent’s shoulder before calling on the crowd to quieten. Later, Williams said: “I felt bad because I’m crying and she’s crying and she’s just won – I’m not sure if they were happy tears or if they were sad tears because of the moment.
“I felt like this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam, I was like I definitely don’t think I want her to feel like that. Maybe it was the mom in me feeling we have to pull ourselves together.”
Williams reached two more major finals before calling time on her career in 2022, losing to Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu in the 2019 Wimbledon and US Open finals respectively.
The 2018 US Open victory was the first of four major titles for Osaka, as she won in Flushing Meadows again two years later and captured both the 2019 and 2021 Australian Open titles.
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