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Naomi Osaka on Her "Very Emotional" Reaction to Her U.S. Open Win Against Serena Williams

Andrea Park
Teen Vogue

Naomi Osaka on Her "Very Emotional" Reaction to Her U.S. Open Win Against Serena Williams

"I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win."

On Saturday, September 8, after an incredible whirlwind journey through the U.S. Open tennis tournament, Naomi Osaka took home her first Grand Slam championship trophy by defeating her idol, Serena Williams, in two sets. The 20-year-old's victory was somewhat overshadowed, however, by the controversy that arose when Serena defended herself from the presiding umpire during the match. It resulted in Serena losing first one point and then an entire game in the second set, punishments that speak to the sexism the sports legend has faced her entire career. While receiving her trophy after the match, Naomi was visibly upset and, during her acceptance speech, apologized to the crowd. In an interview with the Today show on Monday morning, the athlete discussed the match and her ensuing reactions.

Naomi said that, as Serena's penalties rolled in, she wasn't entirely sure what was happening. "I didn't really know what was going on because I went to the back and I had my back turned. And then, before I knew it, she was saying there was a game penalty, so I was a little bit confused throughout the whole thing," she said. The confusion continued as the match ended and the crowd began booing, presumably at umpire Carlos Ramos. "I felt a little bit sad because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn't the outcome that they wanted," Naomi said, explaining why she'd pulled her visor over her face to hide her tears as the crowd jeered. "And then I also could sympathize because I've been a fan of Serena my whole life and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win." She added, "It was just really emotional."

Upon seeing Naomi's tears during the awards ceremony, Serena put her arm around her opponent and used her turn at the microphone to ask the crowd to celebrate Naomi's win, rather than decrying her loss. On Monday, Naomi said the gesture "made me happy overall." When it was her time to address the audience, according to The New York Times, Naomi said, "I know that everyone was cheering for her. I'm sorry it had to end like this. I just want to say thank you for watching the match." When asked on the Today show why she apologized, Naomi explained, "I don't know, I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there and I know that the ending wasn't really how people wanted it to be. I know that, in my dreams, I won, like, in a very tough, competitive match. So, I don't know, I just felt very emotional and I felt like I had to apologize."

Naomi also noted that, in the wake of her big win, she hasn't had time to review what happened during the match and come to her own conclusion about what went down between Serena and the umpire, but that she plans to do so as soon as possible. "This is sort of one of the biggest things that happened to me," she said. And she's also having some trouble processing that other pretty big thing that happened on Saturday — you know, becoming the first-ever Japanese tennis player to win a Grand Slam title. "It still feels a little bit surreal, but I think it's slowly sinking in," she told Today.

Related: Serena Williams's Treatment at the U.S. Open Is About More Than Tennis

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