NEW YORK • Serena Williams insisted she did not cheat in Saturday's US Open final before accusing the sport of tennis, which earned her millions and made her a global icon, of "sexism".
Naomi Osaka beat Williams 6-2, 6-4 to become Japan's first Grand Slam singles champion and delay her bid for a record-equalling 24th Major singles title.
However, the showpiece event was overshadowed by the American's angry and tear-filled tirade, which has already been dubbed "The Mother of all Meltdowns" by the New York Daily Post, in the second set.
The 36-year-old was handed a code violation for coaching, a penalty point for racket abuse and a game penalty for calling umpire Carlos Ramos a "liar and a thief" and insisting "you owe me an apology".
"He alleged that I was cheating, and I wasn't cheating," Williams told reporters later. "I don't use on-court coaching (where it's allowed at WTA tour events).
"One thing I love about tennis is being out there. It's the one time I don't want to hear anyone tell me anything. You have to figure out. You have to problem-solve."
The former world No. 1 was adamant that her coach Patrick Mouratoglou had not been coaching her even though the Frenchman told ESPN that he had and that all coaches do it.
We always had to go by the rules. It's sad for the sport when a player tries to become bigger than the rules. Because the young player outplayed her in the first set, I think pressure got to her more than anything.
MARGARET COURT, the 24-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams is aiming to emulate.
When a woman is emotional, she's 'hysterical' and she's penalised for it. When a man does the same, he's 'outspoken' & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.
BILLIE JEAN KING, women's tennis pioneer and former world No. 1.
"I just texted Patrick, like, 'What is he talking about?'. Because we don't have signals. We have never discussed signals," she said.
Williams added that the incident strengthened her belief that women players are treated differently from their male counterparts.
"I've seen other men call other umpires several things. I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality," she claimed.
"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 taken 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."
Williams' other US Open run-ins
Losing her 2004 quarter final to Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams was upset by several line calls and the tournament later removed umpire Mariana Alves from officiating. The incident paved the way for video replays in the sport.
The Grand Slam Committee handed Williams a US$82,500 (S$113,200) fine and put her on two years' probation for an expletive-laced outburst at a line judge during her semi-final against Kim Clijsters.
In her US Open final against Sam Stosur, Williams was issued a code violation for arguing with umpire Eva Asderaki. The Grand Slam Committee ruled the incident was not a major offence and fined her US$2,000. Stosur went on to win the match 6-2, 6-3.
The 23-time Grand Slam winner also made reference to an incident last week at Flushing Meadows when French player Alize Cornet was warned for removing her shirt on court during a heatwave.
She was accused of "unsportsmanlike behaviour" before tournament chiefs apologised, admitting the umpire made the wrong decision.
"Cornet should be able to take off her shirt without getting a fine. This is outrageous," said Williams, before leaving her press conference to applause.
"I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person who has emotions, and who wants to express herself and wants to be a strong woman.
"They're going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn't work out for me, but it's going to work out for the next person."
Mouratoglou took to Twitter afterwards, hitting out at Ramos.
"The star of the show has been once again the chair umpire," he tweeted. "Should they be allowed have an influence on the result of a match? When do we decide that this should never happen again?"
How it unfolded
•Serena Williams is given a code violation warning for coaching (with the score at 6-2, 1-0), which she fiercely disputes. "I don't cheat to win, I'd rather lose," she tells umpire Carlos Ramos (right).
•After being broken by Naomi Osaka to make the score 6-2, 3-2, Williams is given a code violation for smashing her racket in frustration. Coupled with the earlier warning, this brings about a point penalty.
•Williams says: "Every time I play here, I have problems. I did not have coaching, I don't cheat. I have a daughter and I stand for what's right."
•At the next change of ends at 6-2, 4-3, Williams unleashes a volley of abuse, saying: "You will never be on a court with me as long as you live. You are the liar. You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you're sorry. How dare you insinuate that I was cheating? You stole a point from me. You're a thief too. "
•Williams is given a game penalty for verbal abuse, making the score 6-2, 5-3. She demands referee Brian Earley come on to the court. She tells Earley: "You know my character. This is not right. To lose a game for saying that, it's not fair. How many other men do things? It's because I am a woman, and that's not right."
•Osaka holds her nerve to win 6-2, 6-4 for first Grand Slam title. Williams refuses to shake Ramos' hand and demands an apology.