US Open: It didn't feel real, says Naomi Osaka after beating Serena Williams in final
Osaka beats idol Serena to become first Japanese to win a Grand Slam; reveals disappointment over ruining American's record-equalling 24th title bid
The killer instinct that carried Japan's Naomi Osaka to a first Grand Slam title evaporated as she hugged her idol Serena Williams after beating her in a controversial US Open final. Osaka said it wasn't the ire of the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd – angered at penalties meted out to Williams – but just the realisation that she'd robbed the US great who inspired her career of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.
"I know that she really wanted to have the 24th Grand Slam," said Osaka, who choked up again herself trying to explain her feelings. "When I step onto the court, I feel like a different person, right? I'm not a Serena fan. I'm just a tennis player playing another tennis player. "But then when I hugged her at the net I felt like a little kid again."
Undaunted by the massive pro-Williams crowd, she broke Williams twice for a quick 4-1 lead in the opening set, displaying the kind of powerful ground game and dominant serve that have made Williams herself a star.
She had locked up the first in style with a blistering service winner when Williams was incensed by a code violation warning for receiving coaching from her box in the second game of the second set. Although Williams would take a 3-1 lead in the set, the accusation festered, and soon a violation for racquet abuse cost her a point while a third for verbal abuse cost her a game.
"I didn't know what was going on, I was just trying to focus. Since it was my first Grand Slam final, I did not want to get overwhelmed," Osaka said. "Serena came to the bench and told me she had a point penalty and when she got the game penalty I didn't know that either. I was just trying to focus on myself at that time," Osaka said. "To have a huge reaction isn't really me in the first place," she said. "It just still didn't really feel that real."
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