One Epic Meltdown in the Eyes of a Champion By: Peter Snyder

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(Disclaimer; YOU, refers to Naomi Osaka)

Arthur Ashe Stadium. The biggest tennis stadium in the world. You are playing in front of your friends, your family and your coaches in the biggest match of your life, the US Open Final. To add a cherry on top of it all, you are squaring off against your idol who is widely considered to be the best to ever play the sport. You win the first set by the dominating score of six games to two. You are now just one set away from winning your first ever major, becoming the first Japanese player male or female to win a major in the sport, collecting a cool 3 million dollar check, all while defeating the GOAT at the young age of 20. In the first game of the second set you hear rumblings of chair umpire, Carlos Ramos give out a coaching violation to Serena Williams, causing a small reaction from Williams, but nothing major. No penalty was enforced and the match resumed as followed. You know you need to remain focused as this could be the most crucial stretch of tennis you ever play in your life. While down 3-1 in the second set, you find yourself with the chance to break the champ and put yourself right back in this second set. The crowd can feel the momentum start to shift in Serena’s favor but you have the chance to steal it right back. You hit a really strong backhand that is followed by a Williams return in the net, giving you a huge break. The score is now 3-2 in favor of Williams, but the momentum has shifted back on your side. In obvious disgust, Serena slams her racket on the ground, causing it to almost distort into a pretzel like figure. Ramos than proceeds to hand Williams her second violation of the match, resulting in a one point penalty to start the 6th game of the second set. You try to block it all out, but it is becoming seemingly impossible to, as the attention has solely focused on this controversy, rather than the match at hand. Serena is now starting to fully lose her composure as she is pleading to Ramos that she is not a cheater and demands an apology for being accused as one. At one point, you really just have to think, “Can we play some damn tennis,” as you are so close to finishing the journey you set out on two weeks ago. After holding serve and evening the second set score to 3 games a piece, you find yourself with a prime opportunity to break the champ once again, and completely take control of the match. You fire one of the best forehands you have hit in your entire career past Serena and you are now starting to feel it. You have broken Williams for the second straight time and have quickly discovered that this match is totally in your control. If you play your brand of tennis for a few more games, you are about to be a champion. You and Williams both go to the chairs and Serena begins to lose it. She begins to berate the umpire with harsh remarks, calling him a liar and even a thief. Ramos has decided he has had enough and gives Williams her third violation, this time for verbal abuse. Because this is the third violation on Serena, it means that she will be given a whole game penalty and the score is now 5-3 in your favor rather than 4-3. While all this is going on, you have gone off to your side of the court and have had your back to the whole thing. You are expecting to serve off a big break, but instead are placed with the opportunity to break one more time for the championship. While you are confused yet excited, your opponent breaks down on the court, having a full-blown tantrum, yelling at anyone who will listen. The 20,000 who have filled Arthur Ashe to the brim have began to boo and you begin to feel a sense of anxiety and almost a sense of everyone against you. This match has gone off the rails and the last thing that anyone is focusing is little 20-year-old you. You go on and win the match but let’s be honest, no one will remember the match itself. As this is supposed to be the best moment of your life, it feels like the worst and all you can do is put a towel over your head and cry. You outplayed Serena, but in the eyes of the media, she got robbed. You had a better serve, but in the eyes of the viewing public the umpire should be fired. You feel invisible and even come to the realization that this was in a way your fault and you took this moment away from Serena. Your moment has been robbed and in a tournament that you dominated in and deserved every point, will be nothing more than the girl who won on the wrong end of history.

Why did I use you? I wanted to put you, as the reader in the shoes of Naomi Osaka, as these events transpired. The media portrays this controversy as a gender issue or a robbery of sorts but the fact of the matter is, the only thing that got robbed was this poor girls moment. Osaka outplayed Serena and outplayed everyone she played the entire tournament. She was faster, more explosive and deserved to win every match she played. The fact that a meltdown by a professional caused a life changing moment of a 20-year-old to be ruined is just sickening. I get it Serena, you disagreed with a ruling. Do you really think you are the only one? NO! So instead of putting on this big show and spectacle, you should have just played tennis and let your game do the talking. If Serena were to keep her attitude and behavior in check, none of this would have happened. Lets keep in mind, that the coaching violation that was given to her was only a warning. It was her unsportsmanlike behavior and verbal berating of the umpire, that led to the game penalty. She has no one to blame but herself. She needs to be accountable and the media needs to shift their focus on the true champion, Naomi Osaka. We live in a world where power dominates but I feel like it would be nice to maybe, just maybe sometime, give credit where credit is due and celebrate those who deserve to be celebrated.

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