US Open champion Naomi Osaka has said that her landmark victory in New York last month still felt “bittersweet” after a controversial and dramatic final against her childhood idol Serena Williams.
The Japanese player’s maiden Grand Slam win was overshadowed by a row between the US tennis star and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, which resulted in the 23-time Grand Slam champion being docked a game and fined $17,000 over a string of outbursts.
The 20-year-old Osaka was reduced to tears during the trophy presentation as an angry, partisan home crowd at Flushing Meadows booed the match officials.
“The memory of the US Open is a little bittersweet,” Osaka said after a routine 6-4, 6-3 first round win over Kazakh Zarina Diyas in the China Open on Monday.
“The day after, I didn’t want to think about it because it wasn’t necessarily the happiest memory for me. I wanted to move on at that point.”
Osaka said her feelings after winning a first Grand Slam could be compared to eating green tea ice cream.
“When you bite into it, it’s sweet but also strong. That’s how that memory feels … of course, I’m happy I won a Grand Slam. I don’t think there’s anything that can take away from that. But, I don’t know.
“I feel like, not that when I look back on it that it’s a bad memory, but it was so strange, I didn’t want to think about it. I wanted to push it to the side.”
With the first set under the Japanese player’s belt, Williams clashed with the Portuguese official when she was given a warning for receiving coaching – not permissible at Grand Slams.
A few games later, Williams, who was seeking a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title, received a second warning and a point penalty for breaking her racket.
“You owe me an apology,” Williams said, arguing about the coaching violation. “I have never cheated in my life!”
The 36-year-old Olympic champion was later docked a game at 4-3 for calling Ramos a “thief”, which allowed Osaka to serve for the match and seal the historic victory.
Many tennis fans and commentators said it was a shame that Osaka’s win was overshadowed by the controversy around William’s on-court “tantrums”.
“A shame that the spotlight remains on Serena William’s behaviour and not the superior performance of Naomi Osaka,” wrote Rebecca Powell on Twitter. “Let’s celebrate her win not Serena’s loss.”
— Natalie Jacobs (@TheRealNatalieJ) September 9, 2018
“The ugly scene overshadowed the dominant performance of Osaka, who quietly wept through a championship ceremony that should have been a coronation of a great new star for women’s tennis,” wrote Tom Perrotta, sports correspondent at the Wall Street Journal.
Osaka withdrew from last week’s Wuhan Open in China, hours after losing to former world number one Karolina Pliskova in the Pan Pacific Open final in Tokyo.
“I was lucky Tokyo was so close (to the US Open) because I could immediately focus on the next tournament,” Osaka added.
“I didn’t think too much about what was going on… so maybe if I did have that time, I’d be overwhelmed … I’m still trying to take my mind off of it.”
World number six Osaka is on track to qualify for the WTA’s season-ending tournament in Singapore this month.
“I’m really focused on playing the Asian swing,” she said. “For me, the biggest goal is trying to get into Singapore.”