Serena Williams triumphantly returned to tennis earlier this March and is still getting her groove back on the court.
Yesterday, she played the Haitian-American-Japanese rising star, Naomi Osaka, but in a shocking turn of events, Williams lost to the up-and-coming tennis phenom.
In her first-round defeat, the NY Post describes Williams last shot as her worst. Instead of speaking to the press directly after the match, Williams opted to go straight from the stadium to a car waiting to whisk her away.
She eventually released a statement which read:
“Every tournament is an opportunity for me to better understand the areas I need to improve to be my best,” she said.
“Naomi played a great match and I learn something each time I play. I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day. I’m so grateful for my fans who continue to support me every step of this incredible journey.”
Osaka took the win in stride and name the former world champion as her inspiration.
“I don’t know if you guys know this, but Serena’s my favorite player,” she said to WTA Insider. “She’s the main reason I started playing tennis,” Osaka said following her 6-3 6-2 win. I wanted to impress her, and make her say ‘come on!’ at least one time.”
Osaka said she felt good after the match, but could barely recall what the two said to one another.
“I kind of blanked out, but I’m pretty good she said ‘good job,” she told the press. “I just wanted her after the match to know who I am.”
Williams probably knows more about Osaka than she may think. Last week, the 20-year-old won her first WTA title at Indian Wells.
The comparisons to a young Serena Williams have already started. In 2001, a then 20-year-old Williams set a trend by beating her opponent Kim Clijsters and now Osaka has done the same to Williams, making them the only two players under age 21 to win titles at Indian Wells.
Williams, who is currently unseeded (and therefore the cause of conversation about WTA’s maternity leave policies), randomly drew the unseeded 20-year-old Osaka as her opponent. She has had a rocky start since her return. Two weeks ago, she “mercilessly” lost to her big sister Venus Williams at the BNP Paribas Open.
“I really abhor every time we play, but I do enjoy the battle when I’m out there,” Serena Williams said in a statement following her loss to her sister, Venus. “It’s just afterwards I don’t like it as much.”