Twenty four hours ago Serena Williams was an untouchable icon.
Now the world is divided about whether she’s a diva or a hero.
The mum-of-one came up against Japan’s Naomi Osaka in Saturday night’s US Open final.
Osaka, 20, would end up winning the match.
Although the 6-2 6-4 victory appeared routine, the one hour and 19 minute match will always been remembered for the confrontation between Williams and the chair empire, Carlos Ramos.
Osaka won the first set 6-2. Early in the second set, Ramos gave Williams a coaching violation after he allegedly witnessed a hand gesture from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Mouratoglou later admitted to ESPN he “was 100 per cent coaching”, but at the time Williams denied the allegation.
“I know you don’t know that and I understand why you thought that was coaching but I’m telling you it’s not,” she said.
Later, Williams was leading 3-2 in the second set. Then she smashed her racquet after dropping serve at 3-3.
Ramos docked her a point in accordance with the International Tennis Federation’s penalty schedule, which says the first code violation is a warning and the second is a point penalty.
According to ABC News, the same thing happened to Williams during the 2009 US Open semifinal when she was up against Kim Clijsters. In this instance, Williams was warned after smashing a racquet and then was docked a point after threatening a lineswoman who foot-faulted her.
On Saturday night this move enraged Williams and she confronted Ramos on court.
“This is unbelievable. Every time I play here I have problems,” she said.
“What? That’s a warning. I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. I didn’t get coaching. You need to make an announcement that I didn’t get coaching.
“I don’t cheat. I didn’t get coaching. How can you say that? You need to… you owe me an apology. You owe me an apology. I have NEVER cheated in my life.
“I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her and I never cheated. You owe me an apology. You will never do another one of my matches,” she added.
Later, Williams resumed her verbal attack on Ramos while Osaka was preparing to serve with a 4-3 lead.
“I explained that [I wasn’t getting coaching] to you and for you to attack my character… it’s wrong. You’re attacking my character. Yes, you are,” she said.
“You owe me an apology. You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar.
“When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it, say you’re sorry.”
Ramos then announced that Williams had received a third penalty for verbal abuse.
“Code violation. Verbal abuse. Game penalty, Mrs Williams,” he said over the loud speaker.
Williams, stunned by the announcement, once again confronted Ramos.
“Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Because I said you’re a thief? Because you stole a point from me,” she said.
“But I’m not a cheater. But I told you to apologise to me. This is out… Excuse me, I need the referee.”
“Because I’m a woman, you’re gonna take this away from me?” she added.
Tournament director Brian Earley and WTA supervisor Donna Kelso then stepped onto the court.
“You know how many other men do things that are… much worse than that. This is not fair,” Williams explained to Earley.
“There’s a lot of men out here that have said a lot of things and because they are men, that doesn’t happen to them.”
Earley told a clearly distressed Williams that she knew the risks when she began abusing the chair umpire.
The match resumed and Osaka took out the second set.
During the trophy presentation, Williams put her arm around a distraught and overwhelmed Osaka and called for calm.
In the 24 hours since the final, opinion has been divided.
I can’t think of another pro sport in which officials treat arguably the greatest player ever like @serenawilliams was treated today.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) September 8, 2018
Really confused how Serena Williams spun her outburst penalties into a women’s rights issue. Can you imagine, for example, Odell Beckham Jr. creating a social justice excuse for punching a wall last year & the press APPLAUDING him after? Would never happen.
— Britt McHenry (@BrittMcHenry) September 8, 2018
This #SerenaWilliams match is going to be a big story. She was penalized a point and then a full game! She made point men do much worse and are not penalized at all and she is right.
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) September 8, 2018
So let me get this straight… Serena Williams breaks her racket, calls the (moronic) umpire a “thief,” gets over penalized, throws a massive temper tantrum, loses, & now she’s the HERO (according to ESPN) because she told the crowd not to boo anymore?!
My God, I hate our media
— John Ziegler (@Zigmanfreud) September 8, 2018
I’m with Serena. “You owe me an apology” should be the next Nike ad. This is our message to the world. #UsOpen
— deray (@deray) September 8, 2018
This is an astonishing sporting moment for Serena Williams who is beside herself. “Because I am a woman you are going to take this away from me”
— roger bennett (@rogbennett) September 8, 2018
Some believe Williams displayed poor sportsmanship and deserved every penalty served to her. While others believe the incident shone a light on the blatant sexism in the tennis industry.
More on Serena Williams:
The Cut’s Rebecca Traister says tennis is still a game that can’t be won by a woman.
“They are rules written for a sport that, until Williams and her sister came along, was dominated by white players, a sport in which white men have violated those rules in frequently spectacular fashion and rarely faced the kind of repercussions that Williams — and Osaka — did on Saturday night,” she writes.
Richard Ings, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, said it’s Williams who owes an apology to Ramos.
“Williams faced neither sexism or racism in this grand slam final,” he wrote.
“We should not let her record, as glowing as it is, overshadow the fact that on this day, in this match Williams was wrong.”
One thing is for sure – this brief moment in sport will continue to dominate headlines and conversations around the world for days to come.