During the U.S. Open Women’s Final on Saturday, Osaka, 20, beat the tennis legend, 36, after Williams received three code violations. In the emotional trophy ceremony, as a roar of boos erupted from the crowd, Osaka tilted her cap down and began to cry. Williams, standing next to her, sensed the emotion, moved closer to Osaka, and wrapped her arm around her in a comforting gesture after a tough defeat.
As Osaka wiped the tears from her face, Williams smiled and said something to her, making Osaka crack a smile and fans cheer at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Williams later spoke up for her competitor. “I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to interrupt,” she said. “I don’t want to do questions. I just want to tell you guys, she played well. And this is her first Grand Slam.”
Williams continued, “I know you guys were here rooting, and I was rooting too. But let’s make this the best moment we can, and we’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due. Let’s not boo anymore. We’re gonna get through this, and let’s be positive. So congratulations, Naomi! No more booing.”
Osaka offered her own message to the crowd: “I know that everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”
Osaka added, “It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S Open finals. So I’m really glad that I was able to do that, and I’m really grateful I was able to play with you.”
During the game, Williams was given a violation from chair umpire Carlos Ramos for illegal coaching from her player box during the first set. She told Ramos, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”
After receiving the game penalty for court violation, Williams told Ramos, “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. … And you stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too!”
Once the match ended, Williams would not shake the umpire’s hand and continued demanding an apology. She said in a press conference, “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. And for me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never took a game from a man because they said ‘thief.'”
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Katrina Adams, USTA chairman of the board and president, said, “What Serena did on the podium today showed a great deal of class and sportsmanship. This was Naomi’s moment, and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it. That was a class move from a true champion.”
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The statement continued, “What Serena has accomplished this year in playing her way back on to the tour is truly amazing. She continues to inspire, because she continues to strive to be the best. She owns virtually every page of the record book, but she’s never been one to rest on her laurels. She’s always working to improve; always eager to embrace new challenges; and to set new standards. She is an inspiration to me, personally, and a credit to our sport, win or lose.”
The statement concluded, “I know that she was frustrated about the way the match played out, but the way she stepped up after the final and gave full credit to Naomi for a match well-played speaks volumes about who she is.”
In another statement, the U.S. Open sought to explain what went down on the court Saturday. “On the fifth point in the second game of the second set between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, the chair umpire witnessed coaching taking place from Williams’ coach. Even though her coach has admitted to coaching, Williams has made it clear that she did not receive any coaching. Nevertheless, in accordance with the rules, Williams was assessed a Code Violation, resulting in a warning.”
“At the completion of the fifth game of the second set, Williams was assessed a second code violation for racquet abuse, which required a point penalty,” the U.S. Open’s statement added. “At the changeover, at 4-3, Williams was assessed a third code violation for verbal abuse in the judgment of the umpire, which then required a game penalty. The chair umpire’s decision was final and not reviewable by the Tournament Referee or the Grand Slam Supervisor who were called to the court at that time.”