A Battle in Queens Turns Ugly and a Beautiful Message is Lost
Serena Williams is 37 years old and one year removed from having a child.
Tennis is a young person’s sport, so there is no logical reason why Williams should have been in the finals of the U.S. Open in Flushing, Queens in the first place, let alone having recently gone through child birth.
Yet, there she was.
Up against an opponent 17 years her junior — 20-year-old Japanese star Naomi Osaka — Williams had lost the first set and was trailing in the second when she was warned by the chair umpire for receiving illegal hand signals from her coach.
From what I understand, this is fairly common practice, but still illegal, so the Umpire was well within his rights to call it.
After breaking her racket in frustration, Williams was docked a point. From there, the wheels came off as the multiple time grand slam winner berated the Umpire, referring to him as a thief and a liar and lacing into him in front of the world. It was at that point that Williams was docked a full game, a penalty from which she could not recover and soon led to her losing the set and the match.
Social media and sports talk were set ablaze talking about this all-night Saturday and into Sunday morning, but regardless of your feelings on whether or not the Umpire’s penalties were justified, it is truly a shame that they ended up overshadowing what was an otherwise beautiful story.
Here was Naomi Osaka, a 20-year-old half Japanese, half Haitian woman who was undoubtedly living her dream of winning one of tennis’s biggest tournaments and doing it by beating the greatest tennis player of all time.
And here was Serena Williams, at 37 years old, and now a mother, somehow still dominating the sport enough to make it all the way to the finals.
In many ways, it was not only an example of the best sports have to offer, but the best of what the world has to offer considering all of the first-class individuals from numerous countries who participate and compete to win the prestigious tournament. But instead of talking about any of that, we are talking about point and game deductions.
I understand why we need to discuss those deductions and the controversy surrounding them, because they were crucial to the result of one of 2018’s most important tennis matches.
But I hope we will all remember that this tennis match was about more than that. It was about seeing one of the most extraordinary female athletes who has ever lived continuing to be great even after delivering a baby and long past the time when somebody in her profession would ever reasonably be expected to be in the finals of a major tournament.
And it was about witnessing the crowning achievement of a young woman who was able to accomplish something that most people only dream of, and do so at the ripe young age of 20.
All of that will unfortunately get lost in the controversy, but I really wish it wouldn’t.
There is so much more to the match Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka played, most of it reason for celebration. So, maybe while we keep yelling and screaming about the deductions, we can all take a minute to consider the positives.
Because there were plenty of them, and they, too, deserve to be remembered.