The 2018 US Open final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka is remembered for all the wrong reasons. The Japanese lifted her maiden Grand Slam title, but the occasion was marred by a number of controversial moments involving Williams.
The emotionally-charged encounter saw Williams get into a series of heated arguments with the chair umpire. The American received multiple warnings and penalties over the course of the match, which she would go on to lose in straight sets.
The trophy presentation that followed proved to be just as tempestuous as the encounter itself, with the voice of the announcer being drowned in loud jeering from a packed Arthur Ashe crowd.
It was a difficult moment to navigate for the two players, as well as members of the presentation ceremony, which included then-US Open chair Katrina Adams. Adams' opening speech, where she lauded Williams as "a champion of all champions," did not go down well, with fans accusing her of placing Williams on a pedestal instead of praising Naomi Osaka for her magnificent triumph.
Adams defended her comments in subsequent media interactions and in a recent conversation with Chanda Rubin and Zina Garrison, she doubled down.
Recalling the night of the presentation ceremony, Adams said that most of it was a "blur" as the events unfolded very quickly. The 53-year-old said she came into the night having prepared a generic speech, but soon recognized that it needed to be "different."
"A lot of it is a blur, you know, because everything was moving so fast," Adams said. "I had prepared notes that you normally have, really generic, like you have for the championships."
"But I knew that this speech had to be different," she continued. "I knew I had to, kind of, grab their attention, individually from my relationship that I had with them."
Speaking on the reaction to her speech, Adams said that even though a lot of people attacked her for some of her comments, she never had any negative intent.
The former USTA chair said the speech was not about "picking sides," before adding that she was "thrilled" to be standing on the podium with "two women of color."
"You know, a lot of people got on me about my comments," Adams recalled. "But I know what my intent was, I think they know what my intent was, behind them."
"There was no picking sides, one way or the other, I was thrilled to be standing there with two women of color," she added. "You know, it was a moment to remember."
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka continue to slide down WTA rankings
Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka have only made sporadic appearances on the WTA Tour in 2021, and that has resulted in both of them dropping down the world rankings.
Naomi Osaka, who has decided to take time away from tennis to focus on her mental health, fell out of the top five earlier this week and is now ranked No. 8. The Japanese dropped a bunch of points she was carrying from her 2019 triumph at the WTA 500 event in Osaka.
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Williams, on the other hand, has slipped all the way down to No. 40 in the world, having failed to defend the points she gained from her run to the 2019 US Open final. Williams is currently nursing a hamstring injury and it is unclear when she will return to action.