Day 13. Women’s Singles Champion. Naomi Osaka

Andy Taylor Host 2018 US Open 056 Naomi Osaka Champion

Host Andy Taylor | The Voice of the US Open | Photo: @ForTheWin

2018 US Open Champion: [20] Naomi Osaka -19- (JPN)

Tonight, Naomi Osaka out-played her idol and 23-time Major champion Serena Williams to capture her first Grand Slam title. A tremendous accomplishment.

But unfortunately, this night will instead be remembered for Serena’s three code-violations, which resulted in a game-penalty late in set-2 — and a monumentally awkward trophy ceremony that can only be described as surreal.

Andy Taylor Host 2018 US Open 055 Naomi Osaka Champion Match-Recap

The match recap says it all.

Mentally, Osaka was the tougher opponent from ball-up. Serena, a 6-time US Open Champion (1999 | 2002 | 2008 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014), sprayed 13 unforced errors in set-1 alone — including 4 doubles faults. She had two break chances, but Osaka’s defense was rock solid. Meanwhile Naomi kept the unforced errors to a minimum, served well and capitalized on both of her break opportunities.

Already rattled by her uncharacteristic, error-packed performance in a Major Final — Serena came completely unglued when the chair umpire issued her a code-violation for coaching. After the match, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou admitted that he was in fact signaling from the player’s box.

Serena is now 23-8 in Grand Slam Singles Finals
She’s 6-3 in championship matches at the US Open

Serena goes up a break, but it doesn’t last.

After the first changeover, much to the delight of fans in Ashe, Serena finally earned her first break. Still fuming over the accusation that she received coaching (allowed at all WTA events, but not at the Slams), most assumed Serena was back in-the-zone and would force a deciding-set.

Didn’t happen. Osaka broke right back. Serena smashed her racquet, resulting in another code-violation, costing her a point. The atmosphere got edgy. Fans were pissed that the chair umpire’s stern rulings – though accurate – were now a tangible part of the championship match.

When Osaka broke again, Serena refused to let-up and received a third code-violation for verbal abuse. That one cost Serena a GAME, essentially handing Naomi Osaka the title.

The trophy ceremony didn’t go well.

My immediate thoughts after the match:

“Like everyone, still a bit shell shocked by tonight. Sport is a celebration of individual talent, skill, determination…and with tennis: endurance, mental stamina and character. I feel that is something to consider when reflecting on set-2, namely the second-game and the conclusion of game-five. Very surreal to feel simultaneously ecstatic and gutted for such an authentic champion, Naomi Osaka.”

Saturday Night Live’s thoughts 3-weeks later:

[20] Naomi Osaka -19- (JPN)

Last year, she earned the first top-10 win of her career right here in Arthur Ashe Stadium, defeating defending champion Angelique Kerber in the 1st-Round. Today, she makes her Grand Slam Final debut. On Thursday, she defeated 2017 Finalist and World #14 Madison Keys to reach today’s championship match. Earlier this year, she won her first WTA Singles title at Indian Wells, defeating World #5 Karolina Pliskova, then World #1 Simona Halep to reach the Final. She started 2018 with her first Grand Slam run to the Round of 16 at the Australian Open, and by July climed to a career-high ranking of World #17. Competing in her 3rd US Open – from Japan, please welcome…Naomi Osaka.

2018 US Open Road to the Title:

FF: def [17] Serena Williams -26- (USA) 62 64 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
SF: def [14] Madison Keys -14- (USA) 62 64 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
QF: def Lesia Tsurenko -36- (UKR) 61 61 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
R4: def [26] Aryna Sabalenka -20- (BLR) 63 26 64  | Louis Armstrong Stadium
R3: def Aliaksandra Sasnovich -33- (BLR) 60 60 | Grandstand
R2: def Julia Glushko -162- (ISR) 62 60 | Court 17
R1: def Laura Siegemund -188- (GER) 63 62 | Grandstand

[17] Serena Williams -26- (USA)

In 1999, at just 17-years-old, she won her first Grand Slam Singles title right here in Arthur Ashe Stadium, defeating World #1 Martina Hingis in straight-sets. 19-years later, she owns the career Grand Slam with a record-shattering 23 Grand Slam Singles titles – the most of any player in the Open Era. Include her doubles success with sister Venus – plus two Mixed Doubles titles – and she is a 39-time Grand Slam Champion. The sport’s top-ranked player for an astounding 319-weeks – she owns 72 WTA Single titles, 4 Olympic Gold Medals, is a Fed Cup Champion; and last September – became a Mom for the first time. From Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – Please welcome 6-time US Open Champion…Serena Williams.

2018 US Open Road to the Final:

SF: def [19] Anastasija Sevastova -19- (LAT) 63 60 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
QF: def [8] Karolina Pliskova -08- 64 63 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
R4: def Kaia Kanepi -44- (EST) 60 46 63 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
R3: def Venus Williams -16- (USA) 61 62 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
R2: def Carina Witthöft -101- (GER) 62 62 | Arthur Ashe Stadium
R1: def Magda Linette -68- (POL) 64 60 | Arthur Ashe Stadium