Saddest part of Serena fiasco
SERENA Williams' shocking US Open loss to Naomi Osaka left a bad taste in a lot of mouths and as much as most of the world's Serena superfans don't want to admit, it was almost entirely the 23-time champion's fault.
The final was sent sprialling into rare territory as chair umpire Carlos Ramos pulled up Serena's camp, catching her coach Patrick Mouratoglou gesturing for her to move closer to the net early in the second set.
Williams immediately blew up at the official, claiming she "doesn't cheat" and would "rather lose" than be busted for foul play.
After taking the first slap on the wrist personally, most of us expected the experienced tennis champion to shake it off as a blip on the radar before getting on with winning her seventh Flushing Meadows crown.
That wasn't the case.
The match continued for barely 10 minutes before Ramos docked Williams for racket abuse as Osaka began to run away with the match, sparking another outburst from the 36-year-old.
She labelled him a "thief" and a "liar" before setting off on an ugly rant at referee Brian Earley, halting the match for several minutes. She then claimed she was "owed an apology" from Ramos in an act of petulance rivalling anything seen from Nick Kyrgios.
Renowned tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg claimed Williams felt entitled to have the coaching warning retracted. He could not have been more correct.
As fans watched on in awe of the extraordinary meltdown of one of the most successful sports stars in history, a sheepish Osaka stood in the shadows.
The Japanese-born star - who is 16 years Williams' junior - stood silent at her end of the court as the circus unfolded. She proceeded to serve out the match 6-4 to take the first grand slam title ever won by a Japanese tennis player.
The saddest part of the fiasco is that young Osaka stood with her head bowed in tears at the post-match presentation.
It should have been her moment of glory after spending her entire life dedicated to raising one of the most revered trophies in tennis. Instead, she looked like an embarrassed kid not knowing where to stand in an hour when the stadium should have been hers.
Booing from the crowd - a phenomenon rarely seen after a grand slam final - will likely remain tattooed on the 20-year-old's memory reel for the rest of her life.
It doesn't matter if the jeers were directed at the umpire - who wants to hear booing after winning your debut grand slam against a childhood hero?
Granted, Williams dealt with the post-match stress well. After being prompted to answer to the night's controversy, the 36-year-old simply asked the crowd to settle down and to make the most out of what was a deeply disappointing occasion.
But that doesn't wipe the record clean.
Williams' coach actually admitted he was coaching from the box but shrugged it off because "all coaches do it".
"All coaches are coaching throughout the match. But check the record. I've never been called for a coaching violation in my career," Mouratoglou told ESPN after the match.
That is - excuse my French, monsieur - complete bullshit.
To claim injustice after being caught violating the rule book because everyone else does it is a show of complete and utter disrespect to the sport.
It would be like excusing the Australian cricket team of ball tampering after claiming "everyone" gets away with it.
Arguments of sexism against Williams compared to the punishment handed down to men's players have already begun to pump through social media, but they are arguments to be made another day. She did not lose the final because of an umpiring decision, but she did taint it with her outrageous reaction to one.
Mouratoglou continued the attack on Twitter, claiming Ramos cost Williams her 24th grand slam title.
"Should they (umpires) be allowed have an influence on the result of a match? When do we decide that this should never happen again," he wrote immediately after match point.
Sadly, the embarrassing fallout is yet another disappointing example of sour grapes directed at sports officiators.
Ramos was simply doing his job the best he could under extremely stressful conditions - it wouldn't make the slightest of difference if every single coach in the world was getting away with flouting the rules in the box.
At the end of the day, Osaka was the superior player on the court, but unfortunately her stunning display of power and grace to topple the greatest women's star in history at her home slam will be forever resigned to the footnotes.
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