Every tennis Grand Slam has had finals that live long in the memory, and of all the unforgettable showpiece matches to be held at the US Open, 2018 final really stands out. Serena Williams, having returned from maternity leave earlier that year following the birth of her baby girl, was back on her favorite stomping ground in Flushing Meadows, and made it all the way to the final where she would face Naomi Osaka, who was contesting her first Grand Slam showpiece.
Most of those betting on tennis at Betfair expected Williams’ experience to make the difference, and the majority of fans and pundits were similarly confident that the 23-time Grand Slam champion would make it an unprecedented 24th major title. But Osaka had other plans. Read on, as we look back at one of the most famous US Open finals of recent history, and the controversy that defined it.
The first thing to note about the 2018 US Open final is just how well Osaka played to win it. There were few signs of nerves from the Japanese player, as she put Williams under pressure from the very first game, giving a clear indication that she was not willing to roll over for the six-time former US Open champion.
Williams simply couldn’t cope with the quality of Osaka, who upset the tennis betting tips by taking the first set with a 6-2 scoreline. The second set followed a similar pattern of Osaka playing the better tennis, even amid the controversy and furor that we’ll touch on later. A 6-4 second-set scoreline secured the title for the Japanese player, but it was not all smiles and waves as you’d expect afterward…
Serena versus the umpire
The match has gone down in infamy for Williams’ repeated altercations with the chair umpire Carlos Ramos. It all started at the beginning of the second set when Ramos issued Williams with a code violation for alleged coaching by Patrick Mouratoglou, who was sat in the player’s box. Williams hit back at the umpire, saying that she would never cheat to win, but the controversy continued at the next change-over, where the American engaged the umpire further.
The matter really came to a head midway through the set, when Williams received another code violation for smashing her racket. As this was her second violation, she was handed a point penalty, and this caused her to really take issue with the umpire, demanding that he apologize and announce that she didn’t receive coaching.
Ramos refused to retract the code violations, and Williams became more and more irate, calling the Portuguese a ‘liar’, a ‘thief’ and accusing him of sexism. Ramos issued her a third code violation for verbal abuse, and this resulted in Williams losing a game by default. They were unsavory scenes, but Osaka held her nerve throughout and her composure in getting the job done was impressive.
Throughout the whole second set, the crowd had become increasingly involved, and they booed the umpire as he made his way off the court after the match. During the trophy presentation, the crowd continued to boo, causing Osaka to break down in tears. Williams pleaded with the crowd to tone things down, and in the end, Osaka was able to lift the trophy and celebrate with the spectators on her side.
It was a match which caused divisions in the wider tennis community. Some felt Williams had been in the right to stand up for herself, while others believed she had been petulant in not letting the matter go and focusing on the match. What is certain is that it was one of the most dramatic and memorable spectacles in modern tennis history.