Following her incredible victory over tennis legend Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final on Saturday afternoon, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka has spoken out about the atmosphere on the court and the incredible moment she beat her hero.
As reported by People, Osaka was faced with a booing crowd as she lifted the trophy, leaving her in tears at the lack of support. Despite the emotional moment, she has since spoken up about it to say she “sympathized with the audibly disappointed crowd.”
Speaking on Today, she explained the emotions running through her at the time of her victory.
“I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted. And then I also could sympathize because I’ve been a fan of Serena my whole life and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win.”
Osaka beat Williams 6-2, 6-4, the Inquisitr previously reported, giving the Japanese national her first ever Grand Slam title. The victory was somewhat marred by the attitude of the crowd. As she listened to the booing of the audience, she couldn’t help but start to cry, and lowered her chin, pulling her hat down to cover her face so that they wouldn’t be able to see.
Williams, realizing her distress, put her arm around her in a hug and told her, “Naomi, you did it. This is your moment.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 10, 2018
Williams also had to ask the crowd to give Osaka the chance to speak so that she could be heard over the boos, and when they quieted for a moment, she felt the need to say, “I know that everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”
On Today, co-hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie asked her why she had apologized for her win, and she explained that she had ” felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there.” Knowing that the crowd had been fully behind their home-grown hero in the form of Williams, Osaka was well aware the crowd had not been supporting her.
Osaka has always idolized Williams, even doing a third-grade project on the tennis star many years ago. Playing against Williams was a completely different experience, especially considering the two women were competing for the Grand Slam final title.
Fortunately, Osaka had faced off against Williams once before, and although she was nervous, she was able to keep her wits about her.
“Right before I was walking onto the court, I was freaking out a little bit. But when I went onto the court, it didn’t feel like she was Serena. It felt like she was another player,” Osaka said.
“It still feels a little bit surreal, but I think it’s slowly sinking in.” @Naomi_Osaka_ talks to @savannahguthrie and @hodakotb in her first talk show interview about her #USOpen win pic.twitter.com/rdDiStyGyG
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 10, 2018
Williams was hit with three code violations during the match: One for illegal coaching from the sidelines, one for breaking her racket in a show of frustration, and the third for verbally abusing chair umpire Carlos Ramos for the second violation. As a result, she was slapped with a $17,000 fine after the match, which was deducted from her winnings.
The penalties have sparked controversy around sexism in the sport, and Williams claimed she is “paving the way for future female tennis players.”
“I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman, and 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.”
Katrina Adams, USTA Chairman of the Board and President issued a statement regarding Williams’ reaction to Osaka on the podium, hailing her “class and sportsmanship” in the midst of her own disappointment.
“This was Naomi’s moment, and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it. That was a class move from a true champion.”