The events and the arguing and the booing that would make this a US Open final unlike any other began when Serena Williams' coach made what she insisted was an innocent thumbs-up, but the chair umpire interpreted as a helpful signal, the AP reports. It was the second game of the second set Saturday, in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, and Williams' bid for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title already was in real trouble because she was being outplayed by first-time major finalist Naomi Osaka. Chair umpire Carlos Ramos warned Williams for getting coaching during a match, which isn't allowed. She briefly disputed that ruling, saying cheating "is the one thing I've never done, ever." A few games later, Williams received another warning, this time for smashing her racket, and that second violation cost her a point, drawing more arguing.
Eventually, Willams called Ramos "a thief," drawing a third violation—and costing her a game. "I have never cheated in my life!" Williams told Ramos. "You owe me an apology." Soon, Osaka was finishing off a 6-2, 6-4 victory that made her the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles title. That is not, however, what will be remembered about this match. With jeers bouncing off the arena's closed roof, both players—the champion, Osaka, and the runner-up, Williams—wiped away tears during a trophy ceremony that was awkward for everyone involved. Williams whispered something to Osaka and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I felt, at one point, bad, because I'm crying and she's crying. You know, she just won," says Williams. "... I was like, 'Wow, I definitely don't want her to feel like that.'" (Read more US Open Tennis stories.)