Written by by Waleed Aly, CNN
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka paused her press conference following the US Open final on Sunday, visibly upset, as she responded to a reporter’s suggestion that her win was controversial.
The question stemmed from Osaka’s opponent Serena Williams’ decision to be docked a point in the third set of the match for apparently coaching from the stands. Williams received a warning from umpire Carlos Ramos before he issued a code violation for verbal abuse.
Osaka’s opponent, Sloane Stephens of the US, gave the 30-year-old Williams a standing ovation at the conclusion of the match, but several commentators suggested that the outburst — prompting the penalty points — had been a violation of the game’s “fair play” code.
Though Serena Williams called the incident a “thief” on the court , Lewis Hamilton — the 2017 Formula One world champion — tweeted that she had been wrong to do so, calling the “Thief” comment “poor form.”
Support for Serena
Williams caused a stir on social media in the US before the US Open started after she announced that she would be playing in exhibition matches in China and Japan during the tournament in New York.
Initially, the decision to travel was met with anger by those who believed that she was deliberately trying to gain an advantage by playing without a practice partner and facing players at her ranking level in tournaments in out-of-the-way locations.
As she fights to become one of the world’s best tennis players, Williams has often exhibited the self-confidence that, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou says, started when she was “not even 1%” in the sport.
The outrage prompted a WTA and tournament organizer to organize a meeting to discuss their concerns. The 19-time Grand Slam winner responded by appointing her father and manager, Richard Williams, as her coach.
‘We made a mistake’
Osaka could be seen breaking down in tears after taking the court following her semi-final victory over Stephens, saying it was a “dream come true” to reach the final of a Grand Slam event.
Though she did not reveal any future plans, Osaka said that she would start receiving tennis lessons from her coach.
“We made a mistake. I won’t be sitting there every time,” she said in reference to the sometimes awkward exchange of player-media exchange.