Saturday, September 8 should have been one of the happiest days of Naomi Osaka’s young life to date. After all, it is not every day you win your first Grand Slam title.
Instead she was left in tears and almost villainised by the crowd in New York as her opponent, Serena Williams, grabbed all the headlines after an ongoing feud with Portuguese umpire Carlos Ramos. Well, it wasn’t very surprising given there has been a precedence of controversy following Williams at not just the US Open but also other Slams.
2018 US Open Final
Already trailing by a set, Williams received her first code violation when her French coach Patrick Mouratoglu was accused of coaching her from the side lines. Williams flatly denied it, though her case was undermined by Mouratglu who admitted it afterwards, although he was not sure his player had seen his gesture.
Two games later, Williams got her second violation for smashing her racquet into the ground. And then things really got ugly. Refusing to let the “coaching” argument go, Williams called Ramos a liar and a thief, demanding he apologise, and saying “you will never be on a court of mine as long as you live”. Ramos promptly docked her the game for verbal abuse, effectively handing the title to Osaka.
In the process, she managed to turn the Arthur Ashe Stadium into a virtual bear pit, as spectators hurled abuse at Ramos, and turned Osaka into a bystander at her own greatest triumph.
2009 US Open Semi-Final
Williams met Belgian Kim Clijsters in the 2009 US Open semi-final, who, like the American nine years later, was making her way back into the sport after taking time out to have a baby.
Clijsters won the first set, and with Williams fighting to force a tie-breaker in the second, she was foot-faulted on service, giving Clijsters two match points.
Williams then turned on the offending lineswoman with a foul-mouthed rant threatening to “shove the ball down your (*expletive*) throat”. The outburst earned her a penalty point, and Clijsters victory. Williams was later fined US $175,000 and forced to apologise to the official and Clijsters.
2016 Wimbledon Second Round
Williams was handed a US $10,000 fine after her second round victory over fellow American Christina McHale. Annoyed at dropping the first set, Williams smashed her racquet to the ground in frustration at the changeover, and then threw the debris so far behind her that it landed in the lap of a TV cameraman.
She joked afterwards that she did it because she was behind in her quota of smashed racquets for the season.
2011 US Open Final
In the final against Australian Sam Stosur, Williams was warned by umpire Eva Asderaki for shouting “come on” before Stosur could make a return.
Williams confronted Asderaki at the changeover saying “If you see me walking down the hall, look the other way. You’re out of control. Totally out of control. You’re a hater and you’re just unattractive inside”.
She lost the match and was fined a paltry US $2,000 for her comments.
2003 French Open Semi-Final
It was a match against Justin Henin and Williams was serving at 4-2 in the final set. The partisan Roland-Garros crowd booed against Williams when she stopped the point at 15-0 in the seventh game of the third set and circled the mark that the ball made.
It was called out but the crowd sounded incensed at Williams’ gesture. At 30-0, Henin looked to have held her hand up at Williams’ serve but with the chair ump having not seen it, the point was awarded to Henin. Williams accused her opponent of lying and fabricating.
Henin would break back and come back to win the final set 7-5 to take the encounter, move into the final before beating Kim Clijsters to win the title. However this semi-final remained another of Williams’ controversial encounters at Grand Slam tennis.