Appearing a bit subdued this morning in her first ever talk-show interview, Naomi Osaka told NBC’s Today that winning the US Open still feels a bit surreal although it’s “slowly sinking in” that she bested Serena Williams, her childhood idol, whom she once wrote a paper on in third grade.
Osaka, 20, also discussed the crowd’s boos at Arthur Ashe Stadium and how it left her feeling sad.
“I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me or if it was the outcome that they wanted,” Osaka said. “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. So … I was really emotional.”
“I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there and I know the ending wasn’t how people wanted it to be,” Osaka added. “I felt very emotional and felt that I had to apologize.”
The women’s US Open was unfortunately marred in controversy between Serena and umpire Carlos Ramos. Serena was heavily penalized for arguing with Ramos over a warning that she was receiving coaching after her coach was spotted making illegal hand gestures from the sidelines. This led to several outbursts from Serena, who took offense at the umpire questioning her integrity. Yesterday, Williams was fined $17,000 for three code violations.
“I didn’t really know what was going on,” Osaka told Today about the controversy. “I had my back turned. Before I knew it he was saying it was a game penalty.”
Osaka should feel proud of her accomplishment. And the young tennis star, the daughter of a Haitian-American father and a Japanese mother, has nothing at all for which to apologize. She played superbly on Saturday. There’s a good chance she would have won even if Ramos hadn’t unnecessarily inserted himself in the game by penalizing Serena in a way that Katrina Adams, chairman of the board and president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), calls inconsistent with the way male tennis players are often disciplined.
“I would say it was unfortunate. We have to have consistencies. When you look at the women, in this case Serena is feeling, we watch the guys do this all the time, they are badgering the umpire on the changeover (and) nothing happens,” Adams told ESPN. “For Serena, she carried on maybe a little further than she should have… (but) there’s no equality with what men are doing to the chair umpires and what the women are doing and I think there has to be some consistency across the board at every level of officiating.”
“I’m all about gender equality,” Adams added in the ESPN interview. “These are conversations that will be imposed in the next week. We have to treat each other fairly and the same. And I know what Serena did and her behavior was not welcome. It could have been a line that should have been drawn. But when you look at Carlos or the umpire in this particular situation, it’s a judgment call to get that last penalty, because she called him a thief? They’ve been called a lot worse.”
Adams said Ramos could have communicated with Serena, the way he has done with male players, to give her advance warning that things were getting out of hand. “They don’t understand they can have that same conversation with the women because they do it with the guys all the time,” Adams said.
After the match was over, Serena went over to congratulate and hug Osaka, urging the crowd to stop booing and to show Osaka love. “She knew that I was crying,” Osaka told Today. “She was saying some things and it made me happy overall.”