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September 12, 2018 07:42 PM

NBA star Stephen Curry came to the defense of Serena Williams this week, following the legendary tennis player’s loss at the U.S. Open Women’s Final to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka.

The championship match between the two women on Saturday was marred by a controversial verbal altercation between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who gave the 23-time Grand Slam champion three separate on-court violations. Williams, 36, was penalized for illegal coaching, breaking her racket and verbal abuse, and later suggested that the umpire’s actions were motivated by sexism.

“Because I am a woman you are going to take this away from me?” Williams — who also called Ramos a “liar” and a “thief” — shouted mid-match. “That is not right!”

Boos rained down from the audience as Osaka claimed her first Grand Slam victory, which prompted Williams to tell the crowd, “Let’s give everyone the credit where credit is due, let’s not boo anymore. Congratulations, Naomi.”

Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos

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Curry, a friend of Williams, commended the tennis player for her sportsmanship following the loss.

“The way Serena handled the situation,” the Golden State Warriors player told Omnisport while touring Asia with Under Armour. “I think she handled it with such grace and class.”

Curry, a three-time NBA champion, said that reactions like the one Williams displayed are part of the game for athletes playing at such a high level, but controlling emotions can often be difficult.

“It’s tough,” he explained, “but with experience, you understand how you can control your emotions and how you can stay focused on what the task at hand is and that’s just winning basketball games and not letting anything get in the way of that.”

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Curry added: “You’re going to have reactions. That’s what sport is all about.”

In the wake of the scandal surrounding her victory, Osaka — who is from Japan — told PEOPLE she aims to make the country she represents proud.

“I hope people over [in Japan] are happy, that’s the main thing that I wish,” she said.

Many celebrities came out to congratulate Osaka following the match, and Curry joined in during his interview with Omnisport.

“Obviously Naomi deserved to win and she played amazing,” Curry said. “At the end of the day, I hope everybody understands and celebrates Naomi because she’s the U.S. Open champion and that’s pretty dope.”

Naomi Osaka is hugged by Serena Williams after she defeated Williams
Julio Cortez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Williams was later fined $17,000 for her on-court actions, and umpires are reportedly considering boycotting Williams‘ matches unless she apologizes to Ramos.

At a press conference ahead of the fines, Williams said that she was paving the way for future female tennis players.

“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,” she said. “He’s never took a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’ For me it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equal [rights].”

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