NEW YORK -- Underdog 20-year-old Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams Saturday to become the first Japanese Grand Slam singles champion after a controversial US Open final that saw the American docked a game after calling the umpire a "thief."
Osaka prevailed against her idol 6-2, 6-4 in New York to deny Williams a record 24th major.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 8, 2018
Osaka indeed made history for Japan but the final will be remembered as much -- if not more -- for Williams clashing with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
Ramos first gave Williams a code violation warning for coaching in the second game of the second set. Williams then approached the net and told Ramos: "I don't cheat. I'd rather lose. Every time I play here I have problems."
Williams may have been referring to 2009 at the US Open when she received a point penalty against Kim Clijsters in the semifinals -- she was deemed to have verbally abused a linesperson -- and was called for hindrance during a point in the 2011 final against Sam Stosur.
Williams later got a point penalty Saturday for cracking her racket and then was docked a game, to trail 5-3, for what Ramos deemed to be verbal abuse towards him. "You stole a point from me and you are a thief," Williams said during a changeover, to prompt his ruling.
"You owe me an apology!"
Serena was fired up with the official in the final set of the US Open final. pic.twitter.com/r6RSbrirnV
— ESPN (@espn) September 8, 2018
Osaka sealed her first major with a thumping serve out wide. Moments later, boos rained down in tennis' biggest stadium -- it was even louder with the roof closed due to the threat of rain -- as the trophy presentation was about to start.
Normally chair umpires are introduced and receive a gift, but Ramos wasn't brought out. Williams urged the crowd to calm down as Osaka wept, seemingly overwhelmed by the crowd's reaction and all the controversy.
"Let's give everyone the credit where credit's due and let's not boo anymore," Williams told the crowd. "We're going to get through this and let's be positive. So congratulations, Naomi. No more booing."
Osaka, who grew up in New York, was up next in what was a difficult spot for a less experienced player: "I know that everyone was cheering for her and I'm sorry it had to end like this," she said.
While Williams lost her second consecutive Grand Slam final -- having been defeated by Germany's Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon when first seeking to tie Australia's Margaret Court for the all-time lead in majors -- Osaka blossomed during the fortnight.
Never before had a Japanese player won a Grand Slam singles title, with Kei Nishikori coming the closest by reaching the US Open final four years ago. Osaka also beat Williams in March in Miami, shortly after Williams returned from a 14-month layoff after giving birth to daughter Olympia.
Osaka chose to represent Japan though she could have played for Haiti -- her dad is Haitian -- or the United States.
Osaka now lives in Florida, a hotbed for tennis players thanks to the weather and a plethora of tennis academies. She is 16 years younger than Williams, marking the second biggest age gap in a major final after a 17-year-old Monica Seles faced the 34-year-old Martina Navratilova at the 1991 US Open.
On that day, too, the younger player prevailed.
Osaka has power in abundance but is also one of the best movers in the game. She has showed incredible composure as well, saving five of six break points Saturday after saving all 13 in the semifinals against Madison Keys.
The fans gasped when Osaka crunched a forehand passing shot winner at 4-1 and outnumbered Williams in the "come on" stakes. A pulsating 19-shot rally went Osaka's way when she thumped a forehand down the line early in the second. Williams' normally lethal serve misfired, hitting a double fault in each service game of the first set. Williams struck back-to-back double faults when immediately broken back for 3-2 in the second, paving the way for the racket smash.
Broadway, a stone's throw away, couldn't match the drama that was to unfold the rest of the way. Undaunted, however, Osaka served the match out with aplomb, delivering a potent serve that Williams barely touched.
The US Open title was hers, but Williams and Ramos occupied the leading roles.