Only One Thief at the US Open Final

Posted on August 10 2018

You’ve just won your first Grand Slam title, become the first person from your country ever to win a Grand Slam title; words can’t describe how you would feel. But rather than the euphoria that you would expect, Naomi Osaka reflects on her US Open victory as, “a little bittersweet.” As Osaka opened up about her feelings from the final, it became clear that what should have been one of the greatest moments in her life, has instead turned in to a memory she’d rather forget.

Of course, nobody can take Osaka’s remarkable achievement at the US Open away from her, she will forever be a US Open champion, but unfortunately for the 20 year old the opportunity to revel in her victory was clearly stolen from her by her opponent, Serena Williams, and the home crowd that was supporting the American.

Despite Osaka’s wonderful tennis, the game was dominated by Serena Williams’ meltdown, and subsequent feud with umpire Carlos Ramos in which she called the umpire a ‘thief,’ and accused him of sexism. As the American crowd backed their star player, the atmosphere, and Williams’ behaviour turned decidedly nasty, and it was a testament to Osaka that she continued to keep her high level of tennis, and finish the game off.

Once Osaka had achieved victory however, the emotions, and negative atmosphere that surrounded the match clearly got to her, as she cut an emotional figure throughout the awards ceremony. It looked like Osaka wanted to be anywhere but where she was, and she now reflects that “right after, the day after, I really didn’t want to think about it because it wasn’t necessarily the happiest memory for me.”

These are staggering comments when you think they refer to a young woman’s first Grand Slam title. Think of how Djokovic celebrated his US Open victory, despite it being his 14th Grand Slam title he was positively beaming. Osaka, in contrast was trying desperately to hold back tears, and they were not tears of joy.

Instead, her moment for tears of joy were stolen by the one true thief of that day: Serena Williams. There are a plethora of people who have tried to make excuses since that day, who have tried to rationalise the terrible behaviour of someone who should know better, but no amount of apologetic defence of Serena can bring back the moment of Naomi Osaka’s first Grand Slam win.

Thankfully for tennis fans, and Naomi Osaka, it seems quite likely that she will have plenty more opportunities to win Grand Slams. As Osaka demonstrated in the most fierce of pressure pots in the US Open final, she not only has an unbelievable tennis game, but also a mental toughness that can see her through the most difficult of situations. Serena Williams tried every trick in the book to try and put Osaka off her stride, but the 20 year old didn’t miss a beat as she continued single mindedly on to the title.

As a tennis fan, and a human, one can only hope that Osaka gets the opportunity to celebrate a Grand Slam success in the manner befitting someone achieving their greatest dreams, in the future. Serena has been afforded that opportunity on countless occasions but just couldn’t allow someone new to have some of that limelight.

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