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Standing, a few meters from the Grand Slam trophy she had just won, Naomi Osaka broke into sobs.
The 20-year-old Japanese had just defeated her childhood idol, Serena Williams, during the final of the US Open tournament, one of the four most important tennis courts in the world.
Still wearing the black visor she had worn during the 6-2 and 6-4 victory, Osaka, the first Japanese player to win a tournament of this magnitude, lowered it over her face to cover the emotion.
Although this should have been the happiest moment of her career so far, her tears did not seem to be of joy.
The booing of almost 24,000 spectators was felt throughout the Arthur Ashe stadium during the tense game. They were not aimed directly at her, but they did express a sense of injustice to the American superstar, Williams.
“I felt bad at one point because I was crying and so was she, you know, she just won,” said Williams, the 36-year-old tennis player, who is no longer the number one in the world.
Pat Cash, former Wimbledon champion tennis player, told the BBC during a radio program live: “This was the party and presentation more bizarre I’ve seen.”
But how did you get to that point?
From the moment an image of Williams in the lockers appeared on the big screen, there was an expectant and biased atmosphere in the stadium.
In addition to being a global superstar, Serena Williams is an American idol : her image is recurrent in television commercials, on the huge billboards of Fifth Avenue in New York …
Any person you meet in the city and tell them that you are here to cover the US Open, will bring up a topic to shine: Serena.
“Have you seen Serena? Go, it’s great, I do not like tennis very much, but I loveSerena.”
Americans love her.
So, when her mood began to tan and the match to move forward, it was not surprising to hear the atmosphere of the New York crowd.
US $ 17,000 in fines
The murmurs of discontent were heard for the first time when Williams, who had already lost the first set , was charged with a violation of the code in 2-1, after the referee, Carlos Ramos, ruled that her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, was pointing tactics from the stands, which is not allowed .
Williams was very angry. “We do not have any code,” he told the Portuguese. “I do not cheat to win, I prefer to lose.”
After the match, Mouratoglou admitted in a television interview that he had been giving instructions to the tennis player from the stands, but added: “I do not think she has seen me” and “everyone does it”.
If the couple does not communicate by codes, as Williams says, and if she did not see him make any sign, then she has the right to be offended. But with your coach, not with the rulebook.
The United States Tennis Association, which administers the tournament, issued a statement this Saturday endorsing Ramos. The statement said the referee acted “in accordance with the rules.”
And this Sunday the same Association announced that the US tennis player must pay US $ 17 thousand in fines for their three violations of the code of conduct.
Of that total, US $ 10,000 is for verbal abuse against the referee, US $ 4,000 for receiving instructions from her coach from the stands, and US $ 3,000 for breaking her racket.
Betrayed by her anger
The crowd at the stadium has often noticed the times when Williams most needs your support.
Her fans roared when the tennis player lost 30-0 during important matches against opponents such as Karolina Pliskova and Anastasija Sevastova, helping her change her fortunes.
Now, they again showed their support while Williams made good shots, and broke the serve of Osaka for the only time during the game, in the fourth game.
But when Williams lost her serve in the next, the mood changed completely.
First, the American broke her racket. And when Ramos penalized her for the second time-again, legitimately-she exploded.
“You are not signaling to me, you must announce that I do not cheat, you owe me an apology,” he told the referee.
“I have never cheated in my life, I have a daughter and I defend what is right for her, I have never cheated .”
By then, Ramos was receiving the kind of treatment that is given to a pantomime villain.
An ugly state of mind
From that moment on, it was not about whether Osaka would win, but when.
The Japanese made her serve again, to guarantee a 4-3 advantage. And then there was more drama when Williams continued to face Ramos.
“You stole a point, you’re a thief, ” he told the 36-year-old man.
That earned the American a third penalty for verbal abuse, after which announcement generated a climate of confusion and disbelief throughout the stadium.
Altered, Williams protested more against Ramos and asked to bring the main referee of the tournament .
The situation quickly became chaotic and the boos became more threatening.
Some spectators were standing, some had their thumbs pointing down, and some shouted insults at the Portuguese referee.
Osaka, somehow, remained calm .
“I really did not hear anything because I was on my back,” he said.
Was the referee right?
On all three occasions, Ramos correctly penalized Williams.
In accordance with the rules of the International Tennis Federation for the Grand Slam:
• Verbal abuse is defined as a statement against an officer, an opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that impli that dishonesty or be insulting or derogatory.
• The abuse of rackets or equipment is defined as intentionally, dangerously and violently destroying, or damaging rackets.
• Players can not receive training during a match (including warm-up) . Communications of any kind – verbal or visual – between a player and a coach can be interpreted as training.
However, Chris Evert, 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, said Ramos should have used common sense.
“Because of the importance of the occasion – the end, the score, the sanctions – he should have warned him,” the American told a BBC radio station.
“Regáñala:” Miss Williams, you need to be quiet . It can not continue like this, “says Evert.
“Because of the importance of the moment, I should have given him a little respite, but instead, he went straight to the jugular .”
“No more boos”
Ramos was not the only one who went “for the jugular.” Osaka too.
Although Williams tried to calm down immediately after the penalty, the Japanese maintained the composure she showed from the start, to take her second point of the match.
That was the time when Osaka, who grew up in New York after her family moved from Japan, had dreamed since the first day he had a racquet in hand: beat her idol in a Grand Slam final.
“When Serena hugged I felt like a for Kids to Pequén to again” , Osaka, who later revealed that he wrote a piece on Williams, in one of her classes for third grade said.
Still, it did not feel like the special moment it should have been.
The boos continued until the end of the match and also when the award ceremony began.
Osaka started crying, a heartbreaking moment that was hard to see.
It was then that Williams, 16 years older than her opponent, intervened as if moved by a maternal instinct.
“No more boos,” he pleaded. “Congratulations , Naomi , no more boos.”
The crowd responded and the boos became cheers when Osaka took the microphone.
“I know everyone was cheering (Williams) and I’m sorry it has to end like this, ” he said.
His humility and her sweet innocence off the court – but her explosiveness and hardness inside her – make us think that Osaka will have many more victories in the Grand Slam to savor in the future.