The US Open concluded their 50th anniversary season spectacularly, setting new attendance records of 828, 798 fans on the grounds during the two week period, world class players and lots of great matches, but it could not end without drama and controversy, which is not a common, usual Open occurrence.
The Opens ending weekendchampionship matches held at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Queens on Saturday and Sunday were overshadowed by a Serena Willaims tantrum, or described another way, her demand for an equal right to express herself as men tennis players do, to be fair, during her women’s singles finals match on Saturday, and the infractions inflicted upon her by the match’s chair umpire, Carlos Ramos.
Ramos charged Williams with penalties during the second set of her finals match against 20 year old challenger Naomi Osaka, penalties that could have been withheld or delayed, considering that this was a championship match, the biggest stage in tennis. A greater level of sensitivity could have been applied by Ramos. He had the opportunity. It was at his discretion, but Ramos has been known for issuing infractions in the past.
In the French Open in 2017, Novak Djokovic was given a fault on his serve by Ramos for time violations and one for yelling, unsportsmanlike conduct. Rafael Nadal was given one for a time violation.
At Wimbledon in 2018, this year, Ramos gave Djokovic a code violation for slamming his racquet into the ground. Djokovic complained about a double standard by Ramos who had not penalized Kei Nishikori for doing something similar.
On Sunday, Williams, who has won 23 Grand Slams, 6 US Opens, did very little to help herself in her battle with Ramos, who she, at one point, demanded an apology from.
“You owe me an apology. I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her.”
Williams also showed signs during this match of an inability to beat Osaka, losing 6-2 in the first set and 6-4 in the second, but it still leaves us to questiion whether Williams could have won the second set if she wasn’t so disturbed by the penalties she’d been given, and was this championship match decided by Williams and Osaka’s play, or by a decision made by an official. Also, was there sexism involved in Ramos’ officiating? Could there be?
In.a statement from the US Open issued immediately after the match regarding what happened, it stated that, “The chair umpire witnessed coaching taking place from Williams’ coach. Even though her coach has admitted to coaching, Williams has made it clear that she did not receive any coaching. Nevetheless, in accordance with the rules, Williams was assessed a Code Violation, resulting in a warning.”
It goes on to say, “Williams was assessed a second code violation for racquet abuse, which required a point penalty.”
In regards to the third penalty, “At 4-3, Williams was assessed a third code violation for verbal abuse, in the judgment of the umpire, which then required a game penalty. The chair umpire’s decision was final and not reviewable by the Tournament Referee or the Grand Slam Supervisor who were called to the court at that time.”
As Williams extemporally attempted to navagate the conflict into her own “Me Too” movement, a civil rights violation, the greatest achievement in Osaka’s young life, playing Serena Williams in the US Open, and winning the US Open finals, dreams that have come true for Osaka, will now include the memory of her childhood idol making this a platform about her, Williams, alleged gender bias and gender equality, not just the on-court match, the competition between the two.
“It was always my dream to play Serena in a US Open finals,” said Osaka, the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father. Osaka was two-years old when Williams won her first US Open in 1997.
“When I hugged her at the net, I felt like a kid again,” she said, then reminisced about the school report that she had done on Williams when she was in the third grade. And she still has it.
The men’s single championship match between Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro on Sunday brought some normalcy back to the Open, although the Serena controversy continued to trend heavily as everyone took a side, and or formulated an opinion, even moreso after the news of Williams’ $17,000 fine was announced. $10,000 for verbally abusing Ramos, $4,000 for the warning for the coaching violation (cheating), and $3000 for Williams intentionally breaking her tennis racket.
“Look, I love Serena,” emphasized Djokovic, now the men’s 2018 singles champion after defeating del Potro in three sets. “I really felt for her yesterday. Tough thing for a chair umpire to deal with as well. We have to empathize with him,” he noted, trying to look at the situation from both sides. “Everyone was in a very awkward situation yesterday. A lot of emotions. Serena was crying. Naomi was crying. It was really, really tough.”
The three hour, sixteen minutes Djokovic – del Potro match was competitve, 6-3, 7-4, 6-3. del Porto, the 3-seed, Djokovic the six, battled, but wasn’t able to win a set due to his mistakes which he credits to Djokovic’s skill, his on court play.
“My mistakes was because of Novak. He plays really well.”
Djokovic, Serbian, 31, also this year’s Wimbledon winner has won two other US Opens. His first in 2011, the second in 2015. He was the US Open finalist in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 and in 2016. del Potro was the Open’s 2009 winner.
To reach this year’s Open finals, Djokovic defeated Martin Fucsovics of Hungary in Round 1, a three hour match, 6-3, 6-4, 6-0, losing the second set 6-3, his most challenging match of the tournament’s four rounds.
Djokovic advanced through Round 2 defeating American Tennys Sandgren, Richard Gasquet of France ranked 26 in Round 3 and Joao Sousa of Portugal, seeded 6 in Round 4.
Djokovic defeated John Millman on Wednesday, an unranked player who had also advanced to the quarterfinals, and Nishikori (ranked 21) in Friday’s semifinals.
To advance, del Potro defeated American Donald Young in Round 1, Denis Kudia, also American in Round 2, Fernando Verdasco, ranked 31 in Round 3, and Croatian Borna Coric ranked 20 in Round 4.
del Potro’s most challenging match to reach the finals was his 3 hour, 31 minutes, 4 sets quarterfinals match against John Eisner. It went 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 for del Potro after he lost the first set 7-6. del Potro then defeated Rafael Nadal, the Number 1 seed and the US Open’s defending champion in the semifinals. Nadal retired after two sets due to a problem with his right knee.
“It was so difficult for me to keep playing that way, having too much pain,” is how Nadal described his inability to effectively compete through each set. “That was not a tennis match at the end. It was just one player playing, the other one staying on the other side of the court.”
Nadal had logged more on court time than any other 2018 US Open player, 15 hours and 54 minutes including an epic 5-set quarterfinal match against Dominic Thiem on Wednesday night to qualify to play del Potro on Friday. The match against Thiem, the most exciting, the most thrilling one of this year’s US Open, went past 2am.