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First off, props and many congratulations to Naomi Osaka, the 20-year-old Haitian-Japanese-American who just won her first ever Grand Slam tennis tournament by beating her hero, Serena Williams, in the women's U.S. Open final. Second off, congrats to the men's winner, Novak Djokovic, who's now tied for third all-time in men's tennis history with 14 Grand Slam wins.

Now then, on to the controversy that against all odds has everyone -- or at least some people -- talking about women's tennis, even after Week 1 of the NFL season. The facts are these - and after the facts, it gets complicated:
  • Osaka beat Serena by the surprisingly dominant score of 6-2 in a very well played first set. (In women's tennis, the first player to win two sets wins.)
  • Early in the second set, the chair umpire gave Serena a 'code violation' for receiving coaching via hand signals from her coach in the stands (this isn't allowed in Grand Slams). Serena approached the umpire, saying "I don't cheat to win, I'd rather lose."
  • Later in the second set, the umpire called a second code violation after Serena threw her racket at the ground -- that second violation carrying a one-point penalty against Serena.
  • Yet later in the second set, during a changeover (a break between the games), Serena demanded the umpire apologize for insinuating she was a cheater, then called him a "thief" for stealing a point from her.
  • In response, the ump gave her a third code violation for "verbal abuse," leading to a one-game penalty against Serena.
  • Two games later, Osaka finished off the match with a 6-2, 6-4 win.
The shocking developments -- full-game penalties are extremely rare in pro tennis, let alone in a championship match -- very much harshed the crowd's mellow. That Serena was going for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam win, and that it was her first U.S. Open since becoming a mother and nearly dying of related complications, only raised the emotional stakes. This led to a very weird scene, as the crowd booed tournament officials during the trophy presentation until Serena asked them to stop so Osaka could enjoy the moment.

Serena's coach admitted that on the first violation he was coaching Serena, but said that's done by "100% of coaches in 100% of matches," and that Serena was unfairly penalized. Serena called out the (male) umpire for sexism on that third code violation, saying male players get away with way more aggressive behavior, and are praised for their aggression while women are punished for showing emotions. After the match, she said she was standing up for women's rights, and lots of people, including luminaries like Billie Jean King -- for whom the tournament site is named -- agreed that Serena was being held to a double standard. And this is all valid.

BUT! The narrative gets complicated because the umpire -- Carlos Ramos -- is known for being a hardass, and has run afoul of elite men's tennis players too. He once gave Andy Murray a code violation for calling him "stupid" -- arguably about the same level of verbal abuse as calling someone a "thief" -- and was indeed once called out by Novak Djokovic for having "double standards"... when Ramos hit Djokovic with a code violation for throwing his racket, while failing to penalize his opponent for doing the same thing. And while coaching violations are pretty rare, they're not super rare -- coaching violations were called on at least two other players during this U.S. Open.

So the good/bad news is that people on both sides of this controversy have plenty to scream about. We just hope that doesn't overshadow Naomi Osaka's awesome tournament and first Slam win, especially since she seems like a hilarious and sweet person who said in her post-match press conference that she once wrote a report about Serena in third grade, and said she'd celebrate her huge win by "probably playing video games."
"I know that [Serena] really wanted to [win her] 24th Grand Slam, right? Everyone knows this. It's on the commercials, it's everywhere. 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 when I hugged her at the net, I felt like a little kid again." - Naomi Osaka, in her post-match press conference, describing the mind-blowing experience of defeating her hero.
You can find the clips of Serena yelling at the umpire on just about any website, so let's just enjoy the really high-quality tennis (and the post-match hug) here, shall we?
Tennis's Grand Slam season is over for the year. The next shot Naomi, Serena, and all the rest will have at their next (or first?) Slam title will be in January at the Australian Open.
After all the chaos and controversy, let's let new champ Naomi Osaka have the last word, shall we?
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