Serena Williams' ex-coach recounts 2018 US Open final controversy, 'terrible' feeling

Patrick Mouratoglou was coaching Williams when she lost a highly-controversial 2018 final to Naomi Osaka.

by Dzevad Mesic
Serena Williams' ex-coach recounts 2018 US Open final controversy, 'terrible' feeling
© Getty Images Sport - Matthew Stockman

Coach Patrick Mouratoglou admits the 2018 US Open final and everything that happened during the match was "terrible" for Serena Williams' entire team but probably good for the tennis world because it drew attention to the sport. 

In 2018, Williams was coached by Mouratoglou when she reached yet another US Open and Grand Slam final. Playing against a 19-year-old Osaka, Williams - who had 23 Grand Slams at the time - entered the final as the big favorite as the experience and everything was on her side, while the Japanese was just playing in her first Slam final.

But it was Osaka who made a great start to the final, winning the first set with a 6-2 scoreline. While Williams started to play a bit better in the second set, a major controversy started when chair umpire Carlos Ramos saw coach Mouratoglou giving her a thumbs-up. Umpire Ramos thought it was coaching and hit Williams with a warning. 

Williams absolutely lost it and demanded an apology from umpire Ramos because she felt he was accusing her of "cheating." Umpire Ramos thought Williams stepped over the line in her comments and he then hit the American tennis legend with a game penalty. Then, tournament officials were also called to the scene but the damage was already done. 

Serena Williams and US Open tournament officials
Serena Williams and US Open tournament officials © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Osaka went on to complete a 6-2 6-4 win over Williams for her first Grand Slam title, but instead of celebrating her win, Osaka looked very emotional and visibly sad over the entire situation. 

The situation itself drew lots of attention - not only from the tennis media - but also from all major sports media. 

Mouratoglou: It was a terrible day for us but good for tennis

On one side, one group of people was defending Williams and arguing that even if she was getting coached, chair umpire Ramos should not have called that because coaching was always present in tennis despite it being prohibited at the time as many were getting away with it. On the other side, some weren't happy with Williams because they thought that her actions ruined Osaka's big day. 

"It was a terrible day for us because of all the drama around the US Open final. It was a bad day, a bittersweet day for Naomi (Osaka) because her first Grand Slam, but there was such a drama. So I think it was not an ideal first Grand Slam for Naomi. For us, it was really painful and we had a lot of bad press," Mouratoglou said during a conversation with Nick Kyrgios on Good Trouble with Nick Kyrgios 

"But I think it was a good thing for two reasons. First of all,the drama was so big because it was a Grand Slam final and it was Serena. All the media all around the world, even media that weren't sports media, were talking about tennis. So, for tennis it was a great day, and I think we need drama to just draw more attention to the game.

"Second, I think it participated into the discussion to change the rule. I think the rule had to change because, maybe you were not using it, but most of the players were getting so much coached in every single match."

Patrick Mouratoglou
Patrick Mouratoglou © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Osaka cried moments after her win, Williams tried to calm down the Japanese and the crowd 

“I’m gonna sort of differ for your question. I’m sorry. I know everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just wanna say thank you for watching the match," Osaka said while visibly being very emotional.

The US Open crowd then started delivering boos, which were probably directed at chair umpire Ramos rather than Osaka. 

Williams then took the microphone and tried to calm down the crowd by acknowledging that Osaka was not guilty for anything that happened out there.

“I just want to tell you guys, she played well and this is her first Grand Slam,” Williams said.

“I know you guys were here rooting, and I was rooting, too, but let’s make this the best moment we can. We’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone credit where credit’s due, and let’s not boo anymore. We’re gonna get through this and let’s be positive. Congratulations, Naomi! No more booing!”

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Osaka responded by showing some major appreciation and respect for Williams.

“It was always my dream to play Serena in the US Open finals, so I’m really glad that I was able to do that. I’m really grateful I was able to play with you. Thank you," Osaka said.

Serena Williams Patrick Mouratoglou Naomi Osaka