Serena Williams has been fined a total of $17,000 for her offences during the US Open final.
The 23-time grand slam champion lost her cool after being given a warning for coaching from the stands early in the second set against Japan’s Naomi Osaka.
She was penalised a point for a second offence, smashing her racket, and then a game after she verbally abused umpire Carlos Ramos, calling him a liar and a thief. That put Williams 5-3 down in the second set and she went on to lose 6-2 6-4.
The verbal abuse offence was the most serious and for that Williams has been docked $10,000. The remainder of the fine is made up of $4,000 for coaching and $3,000 for racket abuse.
She earned $1.85million in prize money for reaching the final.
This was supposed to be the day when Williams finally equalled the all-time record of 24 grand slam singles titles won by Margaret Court and more than 23,000 fans packed into Arthur Ashe Stadium eager to be a part of her moment.
But instead the final descended into rancour as Williams and Ramos, a very experienced Portuguese official, took centre stage, overshadowing a remarkably composed performance from 20-year-old Osaka in her first grand slam final.
Williams was furious when she was given a coaching violation after Ramos spotted a hand gesture from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou, telling the umpire she would rather lose than cheat.
Mouratoglou later admitted to ESPN that he had been coaching, but Williams insisted she had not seen the signal and that they had never discussed such communication.
Mouratoglou, who has worked with Williams since 2012, alleged Osaka’s coach Sascaha Bajin was also coaching, and it is an open secret that such conduct is commonplace.
On-court coaching is allowed on the WTA Tour, but Williams is one of the few players who never uses it.
After dropping serve in the fifth game of the second set and smashing her racket, Williams was given an automatic second violation, resulting in a point penalty, something of which she initially seemed unaware.
She continued her argument with Ramos at the next change of ends and accused him of being a thief for taking a point away from her. Ramos gave her a third violation, which resulted in a game penalty.
A tearful Williams argued her case with tournament referee Brian Earley and grand slam supervisor Donna Kelso, claiming a male player would not have been punished in such a situation, but a tournament statement later confirmed the umpire’s decisions were final.
Asked in her press conference what she would have done differently in hindsight, Williams became increasingly emotional as she said: “I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief, because I thought he took a game from me.
“But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. 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 taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’. It blows my mind.”
It is not the first time Williams has run into trouble with officials at Flushing Meadows. In a semi-final against Kim Clijsters in 2009, she was penalised for threatening a line judge and put on a two-year probation.
Two years later, during a final loss to Sam Stosur, Williams called umpire Eva Asderaki “a hater” and “unattractive inside” for calling a hindrance penalty against her and was fined.
In the wake of Serena Williams’ jaw-dropping meltdown in the US Open final against Naomi Osaka we decided to look back at some other famous meltdowns in tennis history.
Here’s our top eight tennis tantrums:
8. Goran Ivanisevic (Samsung Open, Brighton, 2000)
There have been a number of cases of players smashing so many racquets they have none left to play with. The crazy Croat, no stranger to outbursts, achieved this considerable feat in England 18 years ago in a second round match against Lee Hjung-taik of South Korea.
In his defence he did not smash them all at once – working his way through the racquets steadily during the match. After he smashed the last one, Ivanisevic explained to the tournament referee his predicament.
The official checked to make sure that was the case, and then defaulted Goran due to lack of appropriate equipment.
RATING: Two smashed racquets
7. Benoit Paire (Citi Open, Washington, 2018)
Trailing Cyprus’ Marcos Baghdatis, the Frenchman failed to convert an overhead smash and went into full meltdown mode. He smashed not one, not two but three racquets then stomped on his belongings by his chair before picking up another raccqet and bouncing it off the court.
Then, just when you thought it was all over, Paire went out of his way to retrieve the two broken racquets and casually tossed them back onto the court. He lost, of course.
RATING: Three smashed racquets
6. Martina Hingis (French Open, Paris, 1999)
The ultimate example of a player self-destructing. The 18-year-old Hingis, already with five majors under her belt, led Steffi Graf 6-4, 2-0 in the 1999 French Open final when she disputed a line call.
She then became angry when she thought the umpire checked the wrong mark. Hingis walked over to Graf’s side of the net, kept complaining and refused to play until talking to a tournament referee.
That conversation did not go well either, Hingis received a point penalty – and promptly fell apart. Graf came back with ease, winning her 22nd Grand Slam. Hingis would never win another.
RATING: Three smashed racquets
5. Marcos Baghdatis (Australian Open, Melbourne, 2012)
The Cypriot was losing his second round match to Stanislas Wawrinka in Melbourne Park when he let his frustrations get the better of him. Baghdatis sat down in his chair, covered his head with his towel and then proceeded to batter his racquet into the ground until it was a twisted pile of metal and strings.
He then calmly took out another two and did the same thing. To show his versatility, he smashed the fourth not on the side but face down – much harder to do.
Baghdatis then unwrapped his fifth racquet. The crowd waited patiently, would he smash this one as well. Perhaps it was his last because he left it intact and went on to lose the match.
RATING: Four smashed racquets
4. John McEnroe vs Jimmy Connors (exhibition match, Illinois, 1982)
One of the few times when players had to be physically parted on the court. McEnroe was up to his usual dramatics and the older, more experienced Connors had had enough.
He leapt over the net and went to confront McEnroe. “The boxing gloves are going to start coming out, I’m afraid,” he began. McEnroe doesn’t back down and as Connors gets up in his face with a waggling finger McEnroe pushes him away. Connors won the exhibition match in five sets. Exhibition? Imagine if it was for real.
RATING: Four smashed racquets
3. Serena Williams (US Open, Flushing Meadows, 2018)
Trailing in the second set against Naomi Osaka in this year’s US Open final, Williams receives a code-violation for getting coaching from her box. She then smashes a racquet after losing another point which results in a point penalty.
Cue full on meltdown. Williams launches a tirade against the umpire, Carlos Ramos, whom she brands him a “thief.” This is termed verbal abuse and she receives a rare game penalty. Osaka goes on to win but amidst all the drama that becomes secondary.
RATING: Four smashed racquets
2. John McEnroe (Swedish Open, Stockholm, 1984)
McEnroe’s most famous meltdown, made even worse by the fact that it was in the austere locale of Sweden. The world No1 was down one set to Swede Anders Jarryd when he didn’t like a line call.
He approached the chair umpire, Dr. Leif Ake Nilsson, another Swede and bellowed: “No mistakes so far in this match, right?” Nilsson did not reply so McEnroe uttered the famous line: “Answer the question. The question, jerk.”
Despite the outburst, or perhaps because of it, McEnroe went on to win the match and the tournament.
RATING: Five smashed racquets
1. Jeff Tarango (Wimbledon, London, 1995)
The American already had a McEnroe-like reputation and he only enhanced that with this petulant display. After a disputed ace call, Tarango told fans to “shut up”, acted mock disbelief when he was then given a warning, abused the chair umpire leading to another warning and then quit – walking off the court in protest.
He became the first player to do so in a major tournament. The drama wasn’t over – his wife, Bernadette, then crashed the press conference to announce she’d slapped the umpire – twice. Tarango, not surprisingly, was banned from Wimbledon in 1996.
RATING: Five smashed racquets
But the one thing almost everyone can agree upon is that Naomi Osaka deserved her moment to shine at the centre of Arthur Ashe stadium following her victory, and to be able to hear her name announced as the US Open champion without the bellowing boos raining down on her from the crowd.
The 20-year-old did everything right to earn that historic moment as Japan’s first-ever Grand Slam singles champion. She blasted through a difficult draw, dropping just 34 games en route to the title, and taking out the likes of Aryna Sabalenka, Madison Keys and her long-time idol Serena Williams to top it all off.
She made a nerveless start to the title decider against Williams, going toe-to-toe with the sport’s greatest of all-time, who was contesting her 31st Grand Slam final. You would never have guessed that it was Osaka’s first.
The Japanese sensation, who is the youngest US Open women’s champion since Maria Sharapova in 2006, was beating Williams at her own game. She was calmly finding her spots with her serve, unleashing huge and inch-perfect groundstrokes, cleverly choosing the right moments to pull the trigger, and being clutch when she needed to get out of trouble.
Osaka grew up looking up to Williams, and even wrote a report about the American when she was in the third grade. It was about how much she wanted to be like her.
When she’s in tough situations on court, she often thinks, ‘What would Serena do?’
On Saturday, Osaka was thinking it while actively beating her.
Even when Williams was unraveling over the code violations handed to her by chair umpire Ramos, Osaka barely flinched. When she lost serve, after saving 21 consecutive break points through her previous matches up to that point, she broke back immediately, twice.
In a contest that was dubbed as one between a master and an apprentice, it was the young underdog who was acting like the pro.
After the last interruption that saw Williams receive a game penalty and put Osaka in the position to serve for the championship, Osaka sealed the deal on her second opportunity, with a service winner. Just like Williams would have done.
But while other Slam champions sink to the floor in celebration, or bury their faces in the ground in disbelief, Osaka’s reaction was reserved and understated. She pulled down her visor in an attempt to hide her face. She then saw Williams moving over towards her side of the court so she sped up her step so she could meet her idol halfway. Osaka was crying, and the tears kept coming as Williams hugged her.
Osaka had mixed feelings; her dream was playing out but not the way she thought it would.
She broke into tears during her press conference when trying to describe what she was feeling at that moment.
“I know that she really wanted to have the 24th Grand Slam, right? Everyone knows this. It’s on the commercials, it’s everywhere. Like, when I step onto the court, I feel like a different person, right? I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But then when I hugged her at the net,” Osaka said before pausing as she was overcome by emotion.
“When I hugged her at the net, I felt like a little kid again.”
It’s the same kid that grew up near the tournament, and would jog around the Unisphere outside the US Open grounds. Osaka, who moved to New York when she was three before eventually ending up in Florida six years later, said earlier in the tournament that the city made her feel nostalgic. When the time came for her to shine following a performance of a lifetime, against her idol, in New York; New Yorkers ended up booing her. There is something deeply flawed about that scenario, irrespective of what happened between Williams and Ramos.
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) September 9, 2018
For every word that will be written about Williams’ on-court drama, many more should be dedicated to Osaka’s poise during the final, her grace in the face of hostility, and her unforgettable tennis throughout the fortnight.
She won her first-ever title – at any level – in Indian Wells last March, and her second career trophy was hoisted at the US Open. Considering this is just her starting point, just imagine how far she can go in the future.
The movie ‘A Star is Born’ is set to be released in US theatres next month. As far as I’m concerned, the real premiere was on Arthur Ashe stadium on Saturday evening.
Just watch her shine bright!