'I felt like I had to apologize': Naomi Osaka on emotional US Open win and Serena Williams controversy
Naomi Osaka shared how the situation made her feel compelled to apologize since Williams got into a fight with the umpire, after she was accused of cheating
US Open champion Naomi Osaka shared on Monday the emotional turmoil she went through winning the grand slam under the controversial circumstances revolving around it. Appearing on the Today show, the 20-year-old spoke about her win over Serena Williams and how the situation made her feel compelled to apologize since Williams got into a fight with the umpire, something that overshadowed her victory.
Her tone was rather soft as she shared that she 'knew' the court was rooting for Williams to win, and not for her. And when Williams started shouting at their umpire, Carlos Ramos, after he issued her with a string of fines, she claimed she was confused and was unsure whether the crowd was booing at her when they started jeering loudly.
"In my dreams, I won a very tough, competitive match. I just felt very emotional and I felt like I had to apologize," she said, adding that she still hasn't watched a playback of the match, hence she is unable to take a side and decide whether Williams' outburst was justified or not.
"I didn't really know what was going on because I went to the back and had my back turned. Then before I knew it, he was saying there was a game penalty. I was a little confused by the whole thing," she continued. "I felt a little sad. I wasn't sure if they were booing at me or if it was because it wasn't the outcome they wanted." The half-Haitian, half-Japanese player went on, "I could sympathize. I have been a fan of Serena my whole life. I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win."
Speaking about not taking sides, she said, "I'm not really that 100% sure because I kind of haven't really had time to look too much at the news. I've been going all over the place. I can't really form an opinion. I want to watch everything and I want to know what happened. This is sort of the biggest thing that's ever happened to me," she said.
However, she thanked Williams for celebrating her win during the trophy ceremony. "She knew I was crying... everyone was sort of unhappy up there. She was saying some things that made me happy overall." And while her father was 'cool' about her win, her mother was overwhelmed with pride. "My parents said they were really proud of me. My mum was crying a lot. My dad wasn't, he's sort of a cool guy. I called my sister too and she was happy for me," she said.
The controversy happened when their umpire, Ramos, cited Willaims for accepting coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou which she denied. He also took a point from her after she smashed her racket on missing a shot. This went on to spark a furious rant from Williams and she ended up calling him a 'sexist thief'. Ramos then took a game off her as a punishment for 'verbal abuse'.
While the public is still divided over whose side to pick, with some blaming Williams for throwing a tantrum, Osaka's remarks on the Today show resonated with her gracious acceptance speech on Saturday, when she said through tears, "I know everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this. I was lucky enough I've played her once before in Miami. It didn't feel that real because it was a grand slam this time. I've watched her play in grand slam finals as a kid. It felt really different coming into this match, I was really nervous."
She continued, "I was freaking out a little bit but when I went on to the court, it didn't really feel like she was Serena. It felt like she was another player. I am very happy to be here. I mean, I've never been on a talk show before. It still feels a bit surreal but I think it's slowly sinking in," she said.
As for Williams, she was fined $17,000 for her behavior on Saturday's final. She argued with Ramos saying she did not and never would cheat. Mouratoglou has since admitted that he was trying to coach her but he believes she did not see him. "[He] treated her like a cheater," he said. "She felt completely humiliated. That's why she reacted like that. Integrity is the most important thing to her," he said.
In her defence, Williams had said, "I never got coaching. I explained that to you and for you to attack my character then something is wrong. You're attacking my character. Yes, you are. You owe me an apology. You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it, say you're sorry. Then don't talk to me, don't talk to me. How dare you insinuate I was cheating? You stole a point from me. You're a thief too," she said.