During the second set, the referee warned Williams of breaking the rules by receiving signals from her coach. Williams denied this and told him she wasn’t a cheater. She received another violation of the Code when she hit her club on the field after Osaka broke her serve. According to the rules of the WTA and Grand Slam, that cost her one point. Two games later, she asked the referee to apologize for “stealing” a point from her.

“You will never be on one of my dishes as long as you are alive. You owe me an apology, ”Williams told him. “Say it. Say you’re sorry … I’ve never cheated in my life.”

She called him a “thief,” and a third verbal abuse code violation resulted in a game penalty that earned Osaka a championship game. Boos rained down from a crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in hopes of seeing the story and continued during the trophy delivery.

“I know you took root here, and I took root too, but let’s make this the best moment we can,” Williams told the crowd as she and Osaka cried. “We’ll make it … Let’s not boo anymore. Let’s get through this. “

For her part, Osaka said, “I’m sorry it had to end this way,” when it was her turn to speak.

The two met once at the Canadian Open (Rogers Cup) in 2019 and this year faced each other in the only three of their four encounters. Williams took this in the championship of an Australian Open tuning with 6-2, 2-6, 10-7 points.

Since then, the admiration has been mutual, even if Osaka rose to number 1 in the world rankings (she is now third). The 23-year-old Osaka has never lost six semi-finals or finals in a Grand Slam event and is currently two-time US Open champion (2020) and winner of the 2019 Australian Open. But she admitted that she was Williams, one of the greatest Athlete of all time, still admired – the tallest, according to a t-shirt that Alexis Ohanian, Williams’ husband, wore in the Melbourne stands earlier this week.

“She’s Serena,” Osaka told reporters. “I feel really intimidated when I see her across the square.”

Both have evolved since the US Open over two years ago – and even towards each other.

“We both had a closure,” Williams told reporters, “and we reached out to each other.”

Both have spoken out on social justice issues, with Williams taking the lead when she inspired a young Osaka when she first played tennis. During the US Open last September, Osaka wore a different face mask for each game, each with the name of a victim of police violence, and a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

“To be honest, she’s like a living icon,” Osaka told reporters in New York. “How, I wouldn’t be here without her.”


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