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The controversial women’s final at the U.S. Open delivered big year-over-year ratings gains for ESPN.
The ratings boost can be attributed largely to the presence in the final of Serena Williams, the Open Era leader in Grand Slam singles titles. Williams sat out the 2017 tournament, which began three days before her daughter, Alexis, was born.
Just over 3.1 million people tuned into Saturday’s final between Williams and Naomi Osaka, nearly 68 percent more than the 1.85 million who watched Sloane Stephens beat Madison Keys in straight sets to win the 2017 women’s final.
The Williams-Osaka match also rose 63 percent year over year in household rating (1.94 vs. 1.19) and 60 percent in adults 18-49 (878,000 vs. 550,000).
Osaka defeated Williams, 6-2, 6-4, to win her first Grand Slam championship, but the story afterward was a clash between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
Ramos issued a code violation warning early in the second set against Williams and her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, for illegal coaching. (Mouratoglou said after the match he had tried to signal Williams during the match, which is not allowed, but added he didn’t think she saw him.)
Two games later, Williams smashed a racquet after her serve was broken, and Ramos issued another code violation, costing her a point. Williams argued, telling Ramos at one point, “You’re a thief.” Ramos then penalized Williams a game, putting Osaka within one game of winning the match.
Sunday’s men’s final also drew a bigger audience than in 2017. Novak Djokovic’s straight-set win over Juan Martin del Potro averaged 2.07 million viewers, up 39 percent over the 2017 men’s final.
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