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US Open: Final controversy not fair on magnificent Osaka

US Open 2018 winner Naomi Osaka

New York, September 9: It was not supposed to end like this.

The women's singles final at the 2018 US Open always promised to be memorable for one reason or another, with history certain to be made whether Naomi Osaka or Serena Williams came out on top.

How do I feel as US Open winner? Tired, says Osaka

Yet the hugely significant accomplishment of the champion was, in fact, cruelly overshadowed in New York as Osaka's maiden grand slam success - the first by a Japanese player - took second billing to a remarkable row between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

Much has already been said and written about the heated scenes that saw Williams incur three code violations from Ramos, the latter penalty resulting in the loss of a game. And there is little doubt the extraordinary drama will be the subject of further analysis for a good while yet.

However, regardless of how much blame you apportion to Serena, whose rage was sparked by a coaching violation she insists was unfair, or the official, one thing is abundantly clear.

Osaka did not deserve to have her big moment tarnished in this way.

You can only win your first grand slam once. No matter how much the 20-year-old goes on to achieve, there will surely never be another triumph in her career that carries the significance of this one.

For so many reasons, this was a massive day for Osaka.

Not only did she have the chance to become Japan's first grand slam singles champion, she was up against a player she has idolised since her childhood years, a player whose own upbringing alongside her sister, Venus, inspired Osaka's father to train his daughters in a similar manner.

What is more, Osaka played magnificently on Saturday (September 8). When it would have been so easy to be overawed by the occasion, the youngster looked born to shine on the biggest stage, comprehensively outplaying Williams to take the first set 6-2.

That should certainly be remembered. Whatever your view on the unseemly row between Williams and umpire Ramos that initially erupted early in set two, the fact is Osaka was firmly on top prior to the controversy and continued to excel thereafter.

Having performed so well in the biggest match of her life, Osaka should have been filled with boundless joy when she converted match point.

Instead, she looked unsure of exactly how to react, amid the hostile atmosphere that had engulfed Arthur Ashe Stadium, and then had to contend with loud boos as the trophy presentation began.

Following a plea from Serena, the crowd belatedly gave Osaka an ovation worthy of a champion, but the damage was done.

Through no fault of her own, Osaka had been denied the fairytale ending she merited.

It was a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion.

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    Story first published: Sunday, September 9, 2018, 12:30 [IST]
    Other articles published on Sep 9, 2018
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