No blame game for Naomi Osaka with US Open champion holding no hard feelings toward Serena Williams
TOKYO: Naomi Osaka said she had no hard feelings toward Serena Williams after the American’s outburst overshadowed her US Open victory.
All the talk following the final Grand Slam of the year was dominated by Williams’ explosive row with umpire Carlos Ramos which resulted in the 23-times Grand Slam champion being docked a game and fined $17,000.
Williams said after the match Ramos’ actions were sexist, and the debate that followed meant that Osaka’s achievement of winning her first Grand Slam was largely overshadowed.
But despite being reduced to tears in the post-match presentation ceremony that mattered little to the 20-year-old who arrived back in Japan to a heroes welcome yesterday.
“For me, I don’t feel sad because I wouldn’t even know what I’m expected to feel,” she told a news conference in Yokohama ahead of the Pan Pacific tournament that begins on Monday.
“Because it was my first final and my first Grand Slam victory, overall I felt really happy and I know that I accomplished a lot.
“I don’t think I even thought about feeling sad because there’s no experience for me to draw on (from) any other Grand Slam final.”
One of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time divided tennis and triggered a debate about sexism in the sport, fueled by Williams’s assertion that Ramos would not have dealt with a male player in the same way.
Much of the criticism of Williams has centered on how her actions had spoiled a precious moment for Osaka, who was even moved to apologize for beating the home favorite to a New York crowd angrily booing Ramos.
In becoming her country’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion, Osaka, the daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, is also helping break new ground in Japan as her biracial identity challenges the country’s self-image as a racially homogenous society.
Public attitudes are slowly changing as Japanese society becomes more integrated with the global economy, and the emergence of more ethnically mixed celebrities, especially in sport, is helping.
For her part, Osaka is not thinking too much about how her identity is perceived.
“For me, I’m just me,” said Osaka, when asked whether she represented a ‘new Japan’
“I know the way that I was brought up, people tell me I act kind of Japanese so I guess there is that.
“But if you were talking about my tennis, I think my tennis is not very Japanese.”
Osaka, currently ranked seventh in the world, is aiming to qualify for the WTA Finals in Singapore at the end of the season.
Furthermore, in embracing her new high profile, Osaka wants to serve as a role model for young Japanese children.
“I have definitely been thinking about if little kids were watching and they wanted to play tennis too,” she said.