Tennis

Osaka’s ‘heartbreaking’ Open admission

US Open champion Naomi Osaka has labelled her breakthrough Grand Slam title “bittersweet” and “not the happiest memory”, breaking her silence on the now infamous final.

The 2018 US Open final will be remembered more for Serena Williams’ outburst and the fallout afterwards than Osaka’s stunning straight sets victory.

Speaking in Beijing where she reached the second round of the China Open with a dominant performance over Kazakh qualifier Zarina Diyas, the young Japanese star opened up about the controversy following the US Open.

“There’s a lot of stuff I want to say about, like, how I felt and whatever,” the 20-year-old World No. 6 told reporters.

“The memory of the US Open is a little bit bittersweet. Like right after, the day after, I really didn’t want to think about it because it wasn’t necessarily the happiest memory for me. I don’t know. Like, I just sort of wanted to move on at that point.”

After her first Grand Slam win over Williams, boos rang around Arthur Ashe Stadium and during her winning interview, Osaka told the crowd: “I’m sorry it had to end like this. I want to say thank you for watching the match.”

During the match, Williams called chair umpire Carlos Ramos “a thief” and later accused him of sexism.

Days later, Osaka told the NBC’s Today she wasn’t sure if they were booing at her but Williams assured her they weren’t.

“I felt a little bit sad because I wasn’t really sure if (the crowd) were booing at me or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted,” Osaka said during an interview on NBC’s Today show.

“I also could sympathise because I’ve been a fan of Serena my whole life. And I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win, I don’t know, I was just really emotional up there.”

Williams’s high-profile meltdown made headlines over Osaka’s feat in becoming the first Japanese to win a Grand Slam, although Osaka has declined to point the finger at the American great.

On Monday, Osaka revealed that she has been trying to forget about the career-defining victory, comparing the win to green-tea ice cream.

“When you bite into it, it’s sweet, but also very strong — that’s how that memory feels to me,” she said.

“Of course I’m happy that I won a Grand Slam. I don’t think there’s anything that can take away from that. But I don’t know.

I feel like not that when I look back on it that it’s a bad memory, but I feel like it was so strange, I didn’t just want to think about it. I wanted to just push it to the side.

“Then I played Tokyo. For me, Tokyo was a way to take my mind off of it. I think that’s why I did well.”

Senior writer at WTA Insider Courtney Nguyen said the admission stunned the journalists in the room.

Osaka finished as the runner up at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, losing to Karolina Pliskova in the final.

Osaka, who defeated Diyas 6-4 6-3, faces unseeded American Danielle Collins in the next round of the China Open.

— with AFP

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