It started as a shocking one-sided US open women’s final Saturday as the 20-year-old upstart Naomi Osaka was having her way with Serena Williams, leading by a set 62. Then in the third game thigs escalated quickly after Serena as called for a coaching violation. Then losing a break lead she smashed her racquet prompting a second code violation which now brought with it a point penalty.
It all went to hell minutes later on the 4-3 changeover when chair umpire Carlos Ramos hit Serena with a verbal abuse penalty which after the first two infractions carried a game penalty. Serena was seen barking at the chair ump, calling him a thief for taking the point away earlier.
For the second time this summer Serena was trying to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slams. She fell short of that and fell into a swirl of controversy.
Serena met the media after, and tried to take avoid going deep into the incident until the very end.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What are the emotions? Obviously a difficult night for you. Talk about how you’re feeling.
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know how I’m feeling yet. Haven’t had time to really process everything. But I’m just trying, like I said out there, to stay positive and to, you know, look at all the bright things and all the good things and just keep going forward with that.
Q. How did motherhood influence how you comforted Naomi today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. I felt at one point bad because I’m crying and she’s crying. You know, she just won. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or they were just sad tears because of the moment. I felt like, Wow, this isn’t how I felt when I won my first Grand Slam. I was like, Wow, I definitely don’t want her to feel like that.
Yeah, maybe it was the mom in me that was like, Listen, we got to pull ourselves together here (laughter).
Q. You were very graceful at the end to not mention what happened before. Patrick Mouratoglou say that he gave you some sort of advice when you got the warning for coaching. So did you understand that? You didn’t realize?
SERENA WILLIAMS: So, I don’t know. I literally just heard that, too, when they prepped me to come in. I just texted Patrick, like, What is he talking about? Because we don’t have signals. We have never discussed signals. I don’t even call for on-court coaching.
I’m trying to figure out why he would say that. I don’t understand — I mean, maybe he said, You can do it.
I was on the far other end, so I’m not sure. I want to clarify myself what he’s talking about.
Q. The umpire had to give you the warning?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, because I wasn’t being coached. If I look at my box and they say, C’mon, or, Good job, I don’t know what else to do. After that I didn’t even look at my box anymore.
Q. You talked about teachable moments. When Alexis is old enough, how will you explain to her what happened out there tonight?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Honestly, I don’t know if she’ll bring it up, to be honest. Is she going to be like, Mom, what happened in the 2018 US Open?
I’m going to be like…
First of all, I’m going to have to think, Okay, 2018, which one was that one?
Q. In all likelihood she’ll see it somewhere along the way.
SERENA WILLIAMS: You think?
Q. What will you say to her?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I’ll tell her, first of all, if she sees it, that, you know, I stood up for what I believed in. I stood up for what was right. Sometimes things in life don’t happen the way we want them, but to always stay gracious and stay humble. I think that’s the lesson we can all learn from this, just like I did.
Q. Do you have any previous history with Carlos Ramos in the chair?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Not at all. He’s always been a great umpire.
Q. You mentioned how at this tournament something always seems to come up. When that was happening out there, were you flashing back to 2009? Does it bring up more things, piling on?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think, yeah, that’s hard for me. You know, I think it’s just instantly, just like, Oh, gosh, I don’t want to go back to 2004. Forget 2009, you know. It started way back then.
So it’s always something. But that’s also kind of, like, this game mentally that you have to play with. You know, sometimes it might seem like things always happen, but I don’t know the word I’m looking for. You just kind of have to, like, try to realize that it’s coincidence. Maybe it’s coincidence, so…
Q. Under the rules, all three violations issued by Carlos were correct. So why do you believe that he’s a thief?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Because he took a point from me. He alleged that I was cheating, and I wasn’t cheating. Then I had a good conversation with him. I said, Listen, you know my character. You know me really well. Like you know that I don’t even call for on-court coach. I don’t even do that.
He’s like, You know what? I understand. I don’t know if he said, You’re right. But he understood. He’s, like, Yeah, I get what you’re saying.
Then when I sat down, I said it again. I was, like, Just to be clear, I can understand what you saw because it may have looked — just because I look at my box, it may have looked like I was getting coaching, but I’m telling you, that’s not what I do. I said, I’d rather lose than have to cheat to win. I don’t need to cheat to win. I’ve won enough. That’s never been something I’ve ever done, you know.
And he was cool. He was like, Oh, I get it. We had this great exchange. We were on the same page. We understood each other, and I felt that that was — yeah.
Q. Do you think the chair umpire played any part in any outcome of tonight’s match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think that’s a really good question. I don’t know. I feel like she was playing really well, but I feel like I really needed to do a lot to change in that match to try to come out front, to try to come out on top.
It’s hard to say because I always fight till the end and I always try to come back, no matter what. But she was also playing really, really well. It’s hard to say that I wouldn’t have got a new level, because I’ve done it so many times in my career. So it’s a tough question.
Q. What do you think the policy should be on coaching during the match?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t use it. I don’t use on-court coaching. I understand they’re using it in qualifying here. They tried it out in qualifying here.
Would I use it? I don’t know. One thing I love about tennis is being out there. It’s the one time I don’t want to hear anyone tell me anything. You have to figure out. You have to problem-solve.
Honestly, I feel like it’s helped me out a lot in my life. A lot of things I go through in my life personally, and also in business, you have to be able to problem-solve.
One thing about tennis, I feel like sometimes when I’m out there, I have a split second, nanosecond, to make a decision that could change the whole match and the whole tournament. I’ve really applied that into a lot of things in my life. I know it sounds weird, but it’s my moment of peace when I’m out on the court where I don’t hear anyone, I don’t need it, I just try to problem-solve on myself.
I don’t know if I would use it if it was brought out in the future. I don’t currently use it, so I don’t know.
Q. Was there something in Naomi’s game that maybe you weren’t expecting?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I feel like she was really, really consistent. I think her game is always super consistent. I felt like she played really well.
Like I said, she made a lot of shots. She was so focused. I think, you know, whenever I had a breakpoint, she came up with some great serve. Honestly, there’s a lot I can learn from her from this match. I hope to learn a lot from that.
Q. Obviously it’s her first Grand Slam title. Do you think it’s a shame that all this happened, the drama happened, with all the booing and everything from the crowd? It’s a very difficult thing, isn’t it, for her to go through, as well?
SERENA WILLIAMS: That’s what I said. That’s why I was, I don’t want to answer the questions. This is her moment. Stop booing because she doesn’t deserve it. I don’t deserve it. The people on the tennis court didn’t deserve it. They were all here to see tennis.
She played an amazing match. She deserved credit, she deserved to win. At the end of the day, that’s what it was.
Q. We can never really go back. If you could change one thing about what occurred, what would that be?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I don’t know. You definitely can’t go back in time. I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief, because I thought he took a game from me.
But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’.
For me it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equal — like Cornet should be able to take off her shirt without getting a fine. This is outrageous.
I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that want to express themselves, and want to be a strong woman. They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.
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