Serena after the controversy: ‘Let’s make this the best we can’
8:13 PM
Art Spander in Serena Williams, U.S. Open, articles, tennis

 NEW YORK—The other lady, the new champion, Naomi Osaka was better on the court, which is supposed to be what matters. But because tennis is a sport o Byzantine rules and emotional players the last women’s match of the 2018 U.S. Open women became as much a war of words as a battle of forehands.

 When it was done Saturday, Osaka, a mere 20, defeating the great Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-3, we were left with accusations—by the loser—and tears, from both contestants, some in joy and some in anger.

  Yes, Serena, 36, still is working her way back after giving birth to a daughter a year ago and not returning until February to the sport she dominated for two decades.

   But Osaka, the first Asian to win a Grand Slam—she was born in Japan but holds U.S. citizenship—outran, outshot and out-angled Williams.

  And to her credit, Serena, very much a part of the controversy, as was the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos ,did her best, after she said the worst was done to her, to calm an outraged, booing crowd during the trophy presentations.

  “I don’t want to be rude,” Serena said to fans, lifting her arms for quiet. “She played well. I know you guys were here rooting for me. But let’s make this the best we can.”

  It was an upbeat comment after what was a very distressing match, not because Serena failed to pick up her seventh Open and 24th Grand Slam victory, but because she and Ramos had what Williams called “issues.”

  First she was given a warning in the second of game for coaching by her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.  When she protested, telling Ramos. She’d “rather lose” than cheat.”  Ramos issued a warning.

  Williams said she wasn’t being coached but rather just offered thumbs up signal by Mouratoglou.  Ramos, from Portugal, then called for a second violation for breaking her racquet in disgust.

  She unwrapped a new one—no, neither she nor any of the others pay for them—and went on court and resumed arguing about not being coached,

  "You owe me an apology,'' she told Ramos, sitting above her, who had docked her a point Then she grew outraged. "You stole a point from me. You're a thief, too."

  When Williams wouldn’t back off—you’ve seen it in baseball when the manager won’t return to the dugout after being ejected—Serena was assessed a game penalty. Suddenly or maybe it wasn’t that suddenly she was behind 5-3. She was done figuratively and a few moments later literally

  Asked if the penalties were in part responsible for the defeat, Williams said, “That’s a good a good question. “  But she didn’t answer it.

   “I don’t know,” said Williams. “I feel like she was playing really well, but I feel like I really needed to do a lot to change  in that match to try to come out in front, to come out on top.

  “It’s hard to say because I always fight to the end, always try to come back, no matter what. But she was playing really well. It’s hard to say I wouldn’t have got to a new level, because I’ve done it so many times.”

   She wasn’t going to do it this time. Osaka, who grew up in New York, who as a kid watched Serena in the very place they played, Arthur Ashe Stadium, had only 14 unforced errors to Serena’s 21. Osaka was quicker to the ball and more effective when she arrived.

  Osaka appeared distressed during the post-match award presentations. “I feel I had a lot of emotions,” she explained, “so I kind of had to categorize what was which emotion.”

   She tried earlier to stay clear of Serena’s debate with the umpire, which was  hard.   “The crowd was really noisy, so I didn’t hear,” said Osaka. And when I turned around, uh, it was 5-3, so I was a little bit confused then. But for me, I felt like I really had to focus during the match because she’s such a great champion.”

  So too, after the chaos, after knowing the fans, mostly were cheering for her opponent, is Naomi Osaka.

 Think what you will, but she was the better tennis player this match.

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