Naomi Osaka Was Robbed Of Her Moment Of Glory At The U.S. Open — She Deserved Better Than This
She should have been crying tears of joy on that podium. Instead, she apologised for winning.
Last weekend, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka made history when she played against her idol Serena Williams in the US Open and won, making her the first player from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles championship. But instead of enjoying her moment of glory after the Naomi Osaka vs Serena Williams game, the young tennis player ended up breaking down in tears on the podium. And they weren’t tears of joy.
The audience — convinced that Williams had been robbed due to unfair umpiring — booed and jeered in protest.
Later, Osaka even apologised for winning the match.
“I know that everyone was cheering for her,” she said. “I’m sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”
Osaka deserved better.
After seeing Osaka break down on the stage, Williams spoke up on behalf of her opponent. “I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to interrupt,” Williams said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I don’t want to do questions. I just want to tell you guys, she played well and this is her first Grand Slam.
“I know you guys were here rooting, and I was rooting too. But let’s make this the best moment we can, and we’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due. Let’s not boo anymore. We’re gonna get through this, and let’s be positive. So congratulations, Naomi! No more booing!”
Naomi Osaka vs Serena Williams: What happened during the match
Williams was given three violations during the game, which resulted in her losing the championship. The first was for allegedly receiving coaching during the game, which is against the rules. The second was for smashing her racket on the floor.
Offended that she was accused of cheating, she confronted the umpire Carlos Ramos. “I don’t cheat to win,” she told him. “I’d rather lose.” Later, she demanded that he apologise to her, and called him a “thief” for taking a point from her, saying:
“You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry. … And you stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too!”
Ramos then docked Williams a game for “verbal abuse”, promptly costing Williams the championship.
Though we can’t say that Williams was without fault for last Saturday’s mess (she did deserve that second penalty for smashing her racket, and losing her temper didn’t help anyone), it’s true that male players like Federer and McEnroe have gotten away with calling the umpire far worse things than “thief”.
“The sport definitely has a double standard when it comes to perception,” tournament director of the Miami Open James Blake told The Washington Post. “For example, women are vilified for speaking up when you look at the headlines; men can be considered ‘passionate’ or ‘fighters’ in similar situations. But I didn’t believe [the double standard] stretched to actual rules. That hope was dashed this U.S. Open when I saw the ruling against Cornet and then this happening to Serena.”
We can understand Williams’ rage against Ramos, but their conflict stole the spotlight from Osaka, who played consistently well and fully deserved the championship trophy.
Williams said as much in a post-tournament press conference. “[Osaka] played an amazing match and she deserved the credit,” Williams said. “She deserved to win.”
When reality doesn’t live up to the dream
Osaka grew up looking up to Serena Williams, and the Williams sisters are the reason why she started playing tennis. Her Haitian father, Leonard Francois, was inspired to turn his daughters into tennis prodigies after watching the Williams sisters play in the 1999 French Open. In the third grade, Osaka even made a report on Serena Williams and said that she wanted to grow up to be like her.
“It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S. Open finals,” Osaka said after the game. “So I’m really glad that I was able to do that, and I’m really grateful I was able to play with you.”
Osaka achieved her dream, but because of the drama, it was far from what she had imagined. When asked at the post-match press conference why she apologised for disappointing the crowd, Osaka choked back tears, saying, “Because I know that, like, she really wanted to have the twenty-fourth Grand Slam, right? Everyone knows this. It’s on the commercials, it’s everywhere. When I step onto the court, I feel like a different person. I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But then when I hugged her at the net, I felt like a little kid again.”
Though she might not have been able to enjoy winning her first Grand Slam championship as much as she should’ve, Osaka shared on Twitter that she’s grateful for the experience. Her win was overshadowed by drama, but she impressed all by handling the situation like with exceptional grace and humility — a true sportsman.
So there’s been a lot going on but I just want to say, I was grateful to have the opportunity to play on that stage yesterday. Thank you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/utiEKJF8NN
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) September 9, 2018