Serena Williams insisted she was not cheating in the US Open final on Saturday.
Naomi Osaka won the final 6-2, 6-4 to become Japan’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion and delay Williams’s bid for a record-equaling 24th major title.
The 36-year-old was handed a code violation for coaching, a penalty point for racquet abuse and a game penalty for calling umpire Carlos Ramos a “liar and a thief” and insisting “you owe me an apology.”
When a second code violation for racquet abuse was handed out to her — along with a point penalty — Williams exploded.
She tearfully accused him of being a “thief” and angrily demanded an apology from the official.
“You’re attacking my character,” she said. “You will never, ever be on another court of mine. You are the liar,” she fumed and Ramos handed her a game penalty for a third violation — verbal abuse — that put Osaka one game from victory at 5-3 in the second set.
As the pro-Williams crowd booed the trophy ceremony announcer, Osaka was tearing up herself, but Williams urged the spectators to show the young champion respect.
“She played well,” Williams said, pausing to compose herself.
“This is her first Grand Slam. Let’s make this the best moment we can.”
When it was Osaka’s turn she seemed at a loss, apologizing to the crowd.
“It was always my dream to play Serena in the US Open finals,” she added, turning to Williams herself.
“I’m really grateful I was able to play with you, thank you.”
In the post-game press conference, Serena Williams was asked if she could go back in time, what would she do differently?
“I don’t know. You definitely can’t go back in time, but I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief, because I thought he took a game from me,” she explained. “I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. And I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality… 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 took a game from a man ‘cause 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 her shirt off without getting a fine. Like, this is outrageous.”