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Updates: Novak vs. Delpo In US Open Final

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2018

Updates: Novak vs. Delpo In US Open Final provides set-by-set updates as Novak Djokovic battles Juan Martin del Potro for the US Open title.

They have battled for US Open supremacy for the past two weeks and now it is time to decide a champion. Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro are dueling for the title at Flushing Meadows in the final Grand Slam match of 2018. The former World No. 1 leads 6-3, 7-6(4).

Djokovic is bidding to join Pete Sampras in third place among Open Era major title leaders, with 14 victories apiece. He enters a record-tying eighth US Open final having won 13 consecutive sets in New York. Moreover, the Serbian is hoping to clinch a third trophy in the Big Apple, adding to wins in 2011 and 2015. 

Del Potro, meanwhile, is nine years removed from his lone Grand Slam conquest at the US Open. He has dropped just one set en route to the final, where he is bidding to lift his first trophy since the BNP Paribas Open in March. Victory would see the Argentine become the fourth player to punch his ticket to the Nitto ATP Finals in London.

Djokovic leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 14-4 including their most three most recent clashes, all in 2017. He has also prevailed in their two meetings at the US Open, triumphing in the 2007 third round and 2012 quarter-finals.

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Here is how the final is unfolding…

Mother nature wreaked havoc on Flushing Meadows throughout the fortnight, with oppressive heat and humidity making for unfavourable conditions. And she would have one last impact on the tournament, with persistent rain showers forcing the closure of the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof for Sunday’s championship. 

Djokovic’s dogged defence has been effective in neutralising the thunderous blows off Del Potro’s racquet throughout their rivalry. Maintaining a high first-serve percentage and an aggressive stance from the baseline is critical for the big-hitting Argentine. 

With both trying to navigate through tricky, slower conditions, they would remain on serve through the first seven games. Del Potro had a 40/0 lead at 4-3, but Djokovic would reel off five straight points to snatch the opening break in stunning fashion. Del Potro tried to hit through the Djokovic defence and break down the Serbian’s game to no avail. A netted backhand would seal the opening set after 42 minutes.

The Serbian’s speed continued to rattle the Tandil native in the second set. An elastic wall from the back of the court, he would secure a quick break for 2-1 behind a whopping 97 per cent of returns made. But Djokovic would finally blink midway through the second, seeing his streak of 23 consecutive holds snapped. A 125 mph ace would suddenly put Del Potro ahead 4-3 as he consolidated his first break of the match. 

With Djokovic’s shots falling short, the Argentine sought to wrestle momentum. But a marathon 20-minute game looked to be the turning point, as Djokovic fought off three break points and stayed the course in the ensuing tie-break. Del Potro’s 22nd forehand unforced error gave the Serbian a pair of set points and he would convert his first. After a gladiatorial 95-minute set, the two-time champion took a commanding two-set lead.

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Arthur Ashe's Historic 1968 US Open Win

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2018

Arthur Ashe’s Historic 1968 US Open Win provides insight into the first ‘open’ US Open

Fifty years ago, on 9 September 1968, Sergeant Johnnie Ashe was the duty non-commissioned officer at Camp Lejeune, a United States Marine Corps base in North Carolina. That is about 600 miles away from Forest Hills, New York, where the final of the first US Open was held. There were about a dozen seated soldiers in a common room right off the duty desk when Sgt. Ashe walked in.

“Look, I’d like to find tennis on TV,” he said. “We found it, and they started talking and one of the guys looked at me and said, ‘Sgt. Ashe, are you any kin to that guy?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m his brother.’ So he said, ‘Well, we’ve got to watch this.’ So we sat and watched the match.”

Ashe says that “most of them didn’t know anything about tennis”. But little did they know that by the end of the match, they would all be jumping up and down. They were watching Arthur Ashe defeat Dutchman Tom Okker 14-12, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to become the first African-American man to win the US Open.

“It was close,” said the top seed in the women’s singles draw that year, Billie Jean King, for whom the current home of the US Open is named. “Okker was really quick, a quick little Dutch guy. He was hard to play. He was really quick and he was real twitchy. He was all over the place. He had a great forehand when he had confidence. I was like, ‘Oh my God’. Arthur had such a beautiful serve. That really made the difference, too.”

That was Ashe’s first moment of glory. Then 25, it was his first Grand Slam title. But earlier in the tournament it appeared he was destined for a quarter-final exit. Ashe was drawn to meet Aussie legend Rod Laver in the last eight. Laver would eventually win 13 of 15 FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings against Ashe.

But ‘Rocket Rod’, the top seed, never made it that far. That’s because Cliff Drysdale, an International Tennis Hall of Fame member, beat him in the Round of 16.

“Thank God, because Arthur was never going to beat Laver. That wasn’t going to happen,” said Fred McNair IV, a 16-time tour-level doubles titlist who would later become a close friend of Ashe’s. 

“I also knew that beating Laver potentially opened the door for Arthur to go further because Laver had a stellar record against Arthur,” Drysdale said. “Arthur could not handle the Rocket’s serve. I was, in my humble opinion, partly responsible for Arthur being able to win the US Open.”

While that was the pair’s first official FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting, Drysdale didn’t expect to roll past Ashe after his upset of Laver.

“I do have vague recollections of Arthur’s ability to kind of take the match to me. He was a flat-ball hitter. The grass courts were really very poor grass courts compared to what they have these days, especially what they play on at Wimbledon. And I found it very difficult to play him, because he didn’t give me much chance to play my own game because he would attack my serve and he was very much a go-for-broke type of player,” Drysdale said. “He was sort of a transitional player in my view, because he played the kind of game they play today, except we came into the net a lot more, especially on the bad grass courts. There was a lot more serve and volley, so he was a combination of serve and volleyer and a really hard hitter of the ball, a flat-ball hitter.”

Ashe’s Davis Cup teammate Clark Graebner, who just weeks earlier clinched the United States’ tie against Spain, was next. Ashe dismissed him in four sets, putting him one match from history. He would take a two-sets-to-one lead in the championship against Okker, when something happened that you don’t see today.

The locker rooms and showers were right underneath the stadium at the West Side Tennis Club, and players were allowed to go refresh themselves, especially because of the grass surface.

Donald Dell, who was Ashe’s Davis Cup captain at the time, Ashe’s best friend and roommate from UCLA, Charlie Passarell, and his coach, Dr. Walter Johnson, visited Ashe there after the third set.

“He [Dr. Johnson] was in a little area, and started talking to Arthur while Arthur was literally toweling off from the shower. And I could tell that Arthur was really uncomfortable and so I grabbed Dr. Johnson and I said, ‘Doctor, Charlie and I want to chat with you about strategy for the fourth set.’ And we started to turn away and go to another part of the room there to let Arthur towel off, change, get dressed,” Dell said. “Arthur said to me after the match privately, ‘I was so happy you talked to Dr. Johnson. I was trying to relax. I didn’t want to talk about it.’ He loved Dr. Johnson, but he didn’t want to talk about strategy when he had Charlie and I there. We knew what to tell him, and he didn’t want to get in the middle of something with someone whom he really admired and liked.”

So, what did Dell and Passarell tell Ashe to do? Well, it was simple.

“We talked about how to attack Okker, how he had to get to the net more, how he had to get more first serves in,” Dell said. “Okker was taking the match away from him. Arthur was a better player on grass, and Tom was a better player on clay. But he was smart. Okker was a very smart player and he maximised his talent… He had tremendously quick volleys. He guarded the net, he was a very good volleyer. I wanted Arthur to come in and take over the net, and to not let Okker dominate the net.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

“No matter what the score was going to be, Okker was just never going to beat him. It was kind of like these rivalries with Roger Federer and David Ferrer (Federer leads 17-0),” McNair IV said. “You just know they’re going to put up a fight, but mentally they just know that they’re going to succumb. They may be good for a set and a half, but they just don’t have quite enough. And Arthur’s weaponry matched up too well. It just matched up too well on the grass. If it was on clay, it might have been a different story. Arthur was just the guy who wasn’t going to be beat.”

This year, the US Open champion will take home $3.8 million. In 1968, Ashe left town with $280 — a $20 per diem. Ashe was still in the Army, based at West Point. But around Christmas that year, Dell got a call from the United States Tennis Association saying that an anonymous donor wished to give Ashe $15,000 of stock.

“I have no idea who did it. I suspect it was somebody in the USTA group, but that’s all I know,” Dell said. “He did accept the stock, and nobody talked about it much… it was a very nice thoughtful gift from someone and they insisted it be anonymous. I never discovered who it was.”

At the end of the day, it wasn’t about the money for Ashe. Nobody will remember the pay he took home after winning the first ‘open’ US Open.

“It meant so much for so many reasons,” King said. “He was a kid who came from Richmond, it was segregated and all that. He told me it was one of the proudest moments of his life.”

So the first word Ashe said to his brother Johnnie when he called him at Camp Lejeune after the match was quite apropos of the moment.


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Tennis is the loser but Williams has a point – Barker

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Sue Barker believes “tennis was the loser” in a controversial US Open final – but said Serena Williams had a point when she criticised the umpire.

A series of incidents, which included the beaten American calling Carlos Ramos a “liar” and a “thief”, saw Williams penalised twice.

Afterwards the American said it was “sexist” to have been penalised a game.

“The umpire was following the rules by the book but Serena has a point,” said BBC Sport tennis presenter Barker.

Williams, who was beaten 6-2 6-4 by Naomi Osaka in New York, was given a code violation for coaching, followed by a penalty point for racquet abuse and finally a game penalty after accusing the umpire of lying.

“I’ve sat courtside watching the men ranting at umpires and they haven’t been given a violation,” added former French Open champion and world number three Barker.

“The fact that it was to be a game violation then robbed the crowd of what potentially could’ve been a third set.”

  • Naomi Osaka wins after Serena Williams outburst
  • Williams accuses umpire of sexism in final

Williams, who was aiming to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, refused to shake hands with umpire Ramos after the match.

She later accused him of sexism, saying: “He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’.”

“Both have a point – Serena saying the male players can say what they want to umpires,” added Barker, who was speaking to BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek programme.

“Earlier in the tournament we saw Alize Cornet being given a code violation for changing her shirt on court and then in the same tournament Mohamed Lahyani gets down from his chair to talk to Nick Kyrgios and persuade him not to give up on a match.

“He [Ramos] was following the rules by the book but sometimes the book has to be rewritten.

“You can’t have one rule for some players and some umpires don’t adhere to it and allow players to get away with things. They’ve just got to be fair to the players.

“Tennis was the loser and we lost what was potentially a fantastic match.

“I’ve never seen anything like it since I have been watching tennis. It was sad for the game.”

  • How did we get to ‘most bizarre match’?
  • Japanese praise for ‘new heroine’ Osaka

What happened?

Williams was given a first code violation after Ramos judged a gesture from coach Patrick Mouratoglou to be coaching.

She said she had not received any tactics from Mouratoglou, telling the umpire she would “never cheat to win and would rather lose”.

The Frenchman later admitted that he had been coaching from the box but that Williams had not seen him doing so.

Williams then received another code violation for a racquet smash at 3-2 in the second set, leading to Ramos docking her a point.

With Osaka leading 4-3, Williams told the umpire: “You are a liar. You will never be on a court of mine as long as you live. When are you going to give me my apology? Say you are sorry.”

That led to Ramos docking her the next game to leave Osaka just one game away from victory at 5-3 up.

Williams refused to take to the court and demanded an intervention from the tournament referee.

Eventually she returned to the baseline, serving out a game to love before Osaka held serve to win her first Grand Slam win.

In her post-match news conference Williams said she was she “was not being coached” and that she “did not understand” why Mouratoglou would say he was doing so.

American 12-time Grand Slam singles champion Bille Jean King, one of the founders of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), backed Williams, saying: “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalised for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions.

“Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”

‘I feel so sorry for Naomi Osaka’

At the end of the match, security staff ran on to the perimeter of the court as Ramos walked off and the Portuguese did not return, as he would usually have done, for the trophy presentation.

Osaka, who describes Williams as her idol, pulled her visor down over her eyes to hide her tears when there was booing from the 24,000 crowd in the Arthur Ashe Stadium prior to the Japanese player being given the trophy.

The jeers were not aimed at her, with the fans instead expressing a sense of injustice at the way home favourite Williams had been treated.

The American appealed for calm in her runners-up speech, asking her supporters to “give credit” to Osaka’s achievement, and the winner was then applauded.

“I’m immensely disappointed,” said Barker. “I was so looking forward to what was going to be a fantastic finale to what has been an incredible tournament and it was all just taken away by Serena and the umpire. I feel so sorry for Naomi Osaka.

“Her first Grand Slam win has been marred in some way. She couldn’t celebrate in the way she wanted to.

“She is one of the most exciting players on the tour. It was just so sad for me to see at the presentation that she was in tears. They weren’t tears of joy.

“The crowd was booing and this was her moment. That’s not the way you want to celebrate your first Grand Slam victory and it was just sad for the sport to see it.”

What are the rules?

According to ITF Grand Slam rules:

  • Verbal abuse is defined as a statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise.
  • Abuse of racquets or equipment is defined as intentionally, dangerously and violently destroying or damaging racquets.
  • Players shall not receive coaching during a match (including the warm-up). Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching.

Should they be changed?

“It’s weird in the women’s game where they have coaching,” said Barker.

“For all the tournaments, bar the Grand Slams, coaches can come onto the court at the change of ends to speak to their players.

“I was against that. It’s a gladiatorial sport, it’s one against one – you work out how to do it.

“But, if it’s coming to things like this, it is ruining the game and it was just such a disappointing way for the tournament to end.

“If they can’t adhere to the rules then they will have to allow the coaching because we can’t have things like this outburst anymore. It is not good for the game.”

She added: “There can’t be a grey area any more. Maybe there has to be a supervisor that comes on and has the final say before you give a game away.”

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US Open 2018: Serena Williams outburst & Naomi Osaka wins – how 'most bizarre match' unfolded

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2018
2018 US Open
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York Dates: 27 August-9 September Coverage: Live radio coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text commentaries on the BBC Sport website

Standing a few feet away from the Grand Slam trophy which she had just won, Naomi Osaka started crying.

The 20-year-old Japanese had just beaten her childhood idol Serena Williams, bidding for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title and her first since giving birth, in the US Open final.

Still wearing the black visor she had worn throughout the 6-2 6-4 victory, Osaka – the first player from Japan to win a major tournament – pulled it down over her face to cover the emotion.

During what should have been the happiest moment of her career, they did not seem to be tears of joy.

Boos rang around Arthur Ashe Stadium – not directed her, but at a sense of injustice felt by most of the 24,000 crowd against American superstar Williams.

“I felt bad at one point because I’m crying and she’s crying. You know, she just won,” said former world number one Williams, 36.

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash said on BBC Radio 5 live: “This was the most bizarre match and presentation I have ever seen.”

So, how did it get to that point?

The expectation

From the moment an image of Williams emerging from the locker room appeared on the big screen there was an expectant, partisan atmosphere inside Ashe.

Serena might be a global superstar but more pertinently she is an American idol: appearing on television commercials, plastered across huge billboards on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Tell anyone you meet in the city that you’re here to cover the US Open and it brings up one topic: Serena.

“You’ve watched Serena? Wow, that’s so cool. I’m not really into tennis but I love Serena.”

They love her.

So, as her mind started to unravel and the match quickly followed, it was unsurprising to hear the mood of the New York crowd turn.

Code or no code?

Murmurs of dissent were first heard when Williams, who had already lost the first set at Flushing Meadows, was given a code violation at 2-1 in the second after chair umpire Carlos Ramos ruled that her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was signalling tactics from the stands – which is not allowed.

Williams was seriously irked. “We don’t have any code,” she told the Portuguese. “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”

After the match, Mouratoglou admitted in a television interview he had been coaching – but added “I don’t think she looked at me” and “everybody does it”.

If the pair do not have a code, as Williams says, and if she did not see him make any signals, then she has a right to feel aggrieved – but with her coach, not the rule book.

The United States Tennis Association, which runs the tournament, issued a statement later on Saturday backing Ramos. It said he acted “in accordance to the rules”.

While Williams says she wants to “clarify” what Mouratoglou was thinking and saying, the Frenchman cannot be blamed for her anger escalating.

Did the umpire – or a lack of self-restraint – cost Williams?

The Ashe crowd has often sensed when Williams needs their backing the most, with huge roars when she trailed 30-0 on serve at key moments against Karolina Pliskova and Anastasija Sevastova helping her turn those games around on the way to victories earlier in the tournament.

Again they showed their support as Williams, now pumped and finding her shots, broke Osaka’s serve for the only time in the match in the fourth game.

But when Williams lost her serve in the following game, the mood changed completely.

First, the American smashed her racquet, and when Ramos gave her another violation – again a correct one – she exploded.

“I didn’t get coaching. You need to make an announcement that I don’t cheat. You owe me an apology,” she told the umpire.

“I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. I have never cheated.”

By now Ramos was getting the sort of treatment reserved for a pantomime villain.

Mood turns ugly

From that point it was a matter of when, not if, Osaka went on to clinch victory.

She broke serve again for a 4-3 lead and then more drama unfolded when Williams continued to rant at Ramos.

“You stole a point from me. You are a thief,” the 36-year-old said.

That earned Williams a third violation for verbal abuse, Ramos announcing he had penalised her a game as a sense of confusion and disbelief swept around the stadium.

An emotional Williams remonstrated further with Ramos and called for the tournament referee in what was rapidly becoming a chaotic situation.

Those pantomime boos quickly turned more menacing, however.

Loud jeers rained down on to the court. Some spectators were on their feet, some had their thumbs pointing down, and some shouted abuse at the Portuguese umpire.

Osaka, somehow, maintained her cool.

“I didn’t really hear anything because I had my back turned,” she said.

  • Williams accuses umpire of sexism

Was the umpire right?

On all three counts, Ramos correctly penalised Williams by the letter of the law.

According to ITF Grand Slam rules:

  • Verbal abuse is defined as a statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory insulting or otherwise.
  • Abuse of racquets or equipment is defined as intentionally, dangerously and violently destroying or damaging racquets.
  • Players shall not receive coaching during a match (including the warm-up). Communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach may be construed as coaching.

However, Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion, said Ramos should have used common sense.

“Because of the big occasion – finals, the score, a game penalty – he should have warned her,” the American told BBC Radio 5 live.

“Scold her. ‘Ms Williams you need to be quiet because if you keep going on like this it will be a game.’

“Because of the enormity of the moment he should have given her a little bit of a break – but instead he just went right for the jugular.”

‘Let’s not boo any more’

Ramos was not the only one going “for the jugular” – so did Osaka.

Although Williams held to love immediately after the game penalty, the Japanese 20th seed maintained the composure she had showed from the start to take her second match point.

That was the moment Osaka, who was brought up in New York after her family moved over from Japan, had dreamed of since picking up a racquet – beating her idol in a Grand Slam final.

“When I hugged Serena at the net I felt like a little kid again,” said Osaka, who later revealed she made a school report on Williams in third grade.

Still it felt like it was not the special moment it should have been.

Boos continued to be heard at the end of the match and again when the presentation began.

Osaka began to cry – a heart-wrenching moment which was hard to watch.

That’s when Williams, 16 years older than her opponent, intervened as her maternal instinct kicked in.

“Let’s not boo any more,” she pleaded. “Congratulations Naomi. No more booing.”

The crowd responded and the jeers turned to cheers as Osaka took the microphone.

“I know everyone was cheering for her and I am sorry it has to end like this,” she said.

Humility and a sweet innocence off the court, but explosive hitting and steeliness on it, one imagines Osaka will have more Grand Slam victories to savour in the future.

‘A surreal experience’ – what they said

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller: “This must be the most surreal experience. A worthy champion but sadly for her it will be remembered for a very, very different story.”

Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash on BBC Radio 5 live: “This was the most bizarre match and presentation I have ever seen.”

Former US Open champion Andy Roddick: “Common sense should’ve prevailed in my opinion. He’s within his power to make that call. I’ve seen an umpire borderline coach a player up, and another dock a game for being called a thief in same tourney. There needs to be some continuity in the future.”

  • Murray wins second US Open mixed title
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Williams accuses umpire of sexism in final

  • Posted: Sep 09, 2018

Serena Williams accused the umpire of sexism in docking her a game in the US Open final and said she had not been cheating.

Naomi Osaka’s 6-2 6-4 victory was overshadowed by Williams’ extraordinary outbursts in the second set.

She received a code violation for coaching, a penalty point for racquet abuse and a game penalty for calling the umpire a “liar” and a “thief”.

Afterwards the American said it was “sexist” to have been penalised a game.

  • Osaka wins title as Williams implodes
  • Murray wins second US Open mixed title

“He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’,” the 36-year-old added.

“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.”

The issues began when Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou made a hand gesture towards her early in the second set.

Williams denied she received coaching saying she would “never cheat to win and would rather lose” and demanded an apology from the umpire Carlos Ramos.

Mouratoglou, however, later admitted coaching.

Three games later Osaka was awarded a point when Williams was given another code violation for smashing her racquet.

Williams was furious, walking up to Ramos, shouting and pointing at him as the crowd started booing in support of the former world number one in a toxic atmosphere.

At the next change of ends Williams continued to rant, saying to Ramos: “you are a liar”, “say you are sorry,” and calling him a “thief” for awarding a point to Osaka.

“For me, it blows my mind,” the 23-time Grand Slam champion said.

“But I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equal.

“I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that want to express themselves, and want to be a strong woman.

“They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”

‘I was not being coached’

After the match Mouratoglou admitted he was coaching but added: “I don’t think she looked at me”. He also said Osaka’s coach was doing the same and that “everyone does it”.

On-court coaching is allowed in WTA events but not in Grand Slams with the rules saying “communication of any kind” between player and coach is banned.

In her post-match news conference Williams said she was she “was not being coached” and that she “did not understand” why Mouratoglou would say he was doing so.

“I just texted Patrick, like, ‘what is he talking about?’ Because we don’t have signals,” she said.

“We have never discussed signals. I don’t even call for on-court coaching [in WTA events].

“I’m trying to figure out why he would say that. I don’t understand.

“I want to clarify myself what he’s talking about.”

‘I didn’t know what was going on’

Before Williams’ outbursts Osaka had dominated the first set in her first Grand Slam final, playing against a player whom she describes as her idol.

Throughout the second set she stayed composed in a difficult atmosphere to become Japan’s first major winner.

Afterwards she said she “didn’t know what was going on” between Williams and the umpire.

“I was just trying to focus,” Osaka said.

“Since it was my first Grand Slam final, I did not want to get overwhelmed.

“Serena came to the bench and told me she had a point penalty and when she got the game penalty I didn’t know that either.

“I was just trying to focus on myself at that time,” Osaka said.

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