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Sunday, February 05, 2023

Naomi Osaka tried to make it a happy moment.

The 20-year-old stood on the podium as the first Japanese tennis player -- man or woman -- to win a major championship. Yet, she covered her face with her hand, preventing millions of viewers worldwide from seeing tears of sadness stream down.

Osaka’s impressive straight-set victory over her hero, Serena Williams, was overshadowed by an unjust penalty from chair umpire Carlos Ramos late in the second frame. The 23-time major champion called him a “thief” after he penalized her a point for shattering her racket out of frustration. The result of that angry comment in Ramos’ mind: “verbal abuse,” which led to a reprimand of an entire game.

Yes, Ramos held the power to hand down such a steep penalty. And yes, he abused his power in a way that doomed Serena’s chances of victory. But penalties or not, Serena was never going to win.

I agree with you Serena. You were shown injustice after being frustrated to no end. But we have to think about both parties involved. The young woman on the other side of the court controlled only what she could control. Yet her performance was hijacked by the umpire.

The Japanese phenom cruised to a 6-2 first-set win and was already up a break when she was awarded a game because of Serena’s argument with Ramos. Osaka played the entire match like a seasoned pro. She deservingly won the match, which Williams admitted during the trophy presentation.

I’m not saying all hope was lost for Serena when she was penalized. She’s the greatest tennis player of all time, and if anyone could fashion a comeback in the U.S. Open final, it’s her. But the thrill of winning a major, which Williams has experienced 23 times as previously stated, is now something that Osaka will have to continue to wait to truly experience.

What should’ve been elation for Osaka was pain and misunderstanding. It’s impossible to feel good after a win when the entire stadium “boos” as soon as you step onto the podium.

Luckily, her hero was alongside with her to provide some encouragement.

Ramos, please come out and apologize.

Apologize to Serena for penalizing her in a way that allowed you to determine the final outcome.

But especially apologize to Osaka for taking away her fantasy of meeting, then beating, her hero in a Grand Slam final, and then stomping on it because you can’t control your temper when her opponent voices frustration.

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Mark Stine is the online sports editor at The Alligator. You can follow him on Twitter @mstinejr or contact him at mstine@alligator.org.

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