Spat did not spoil Osaka's moment

Newly crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka, the world No. 7 who is Nissan's new brand ambassador for the next three years, is aiming to break into the top five by the year end and also reach the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore from Oct 21-28.
Newly crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka, the world No. 7 who is Nissan's new brand ambassador for the next three years, is aiming to break into the top five by the year end and also reach the season-ending WTA Finals in Singapore from Oct 21-28.PHOTO: REUTERS

US Open champion not affected by Williams row; hopes to qualify for WTA Finals S'pore

YOKOHAMA • Naomi Osaka says Serena Williams' row with the umpire during last Saturday's US Open women's singles final had not altered her feelings about winning her first Grand Slam, largely because she had no idea how she was supposed to react.

Osaka's breakthrough triumph in New York was overshadowed by an explosive row between her opponent and umpire Carlos Ramos, which resulted in the 23-time Grand Slam champion being docked a game and subsequently fined US$17,000 (S$23,320).

The 20-year-old was reduced to tears during the trophy presentation ceremony but, on her arrival back in her home country yesterday, the first Japanese to win a Major revealed the incident did not spoil her moment of glory.

"For me, I don't feel sad because I wouldn't even know what I'm expected to feel," the world No. 7 told a news conference in Yokohama ahead of the Pan Pacific tournament which 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."

The final has since triggered a debate about sexism in tennis, fuelled by Williams' assertion that Ramos would not have dealt with a male player in the same way.

HAPPY AS CAN BE

For me, I don't feel sad because I wouldn't even know what I'm expected to feel... Because it was my first final and my first Grand Slam victory, overall, I felt really happy.

 NAOMI OSAKA, on how Serena Williams' outburst at umpire Carlos Ramos did not change her mood when she won the US Open final.

Much of the criticism of the American has centred on how her actions, which resulted in Ramos getting angrily booed by the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium, had eclipsed Osaka's crowning moment.

But, in a TV interview on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on Wednesday, Osaka revealed what Williams said to her in the chaotic aftermath of her historic victory.

"She (Serena) said, like, she was proud of me and that I should know that the crowd wasn't booing at me. So I was really happy that she said that," Osaka said.

The daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother is also helping to break new ground in Japan as her bi-racial identity challenges the country's image as a racially homogeneous society.

Public attitudes are slowly changing as Japanese society becomes more globalised, and the emergence of more ethnically mixed celebrities, especially in sport, is helping.

But Osaka is not thinking too much about how her hafu, or half-Japanese identity, is perceived.

"I'm just me," she told reporters, when asked whether she represented a "new Japan".

She also made known her immediate plans in the sport, with an eye on breaking into the top five by the year end and qualifying for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from Oct 21-28.

"For this year, my immediate goal would be to get to Singapore," said Osaka, who has put herself firmly in contention to reach the season finale.

"I want to do well at the Pan Pacific Open and maybe year end, top five, but I'm not putting pressure on myself. For now, I'm just sort of riding the wave."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2018, with the headline 'Spat did not spoil Osaka's moment'. Print Edition | Subscribe