Naomi Osaka didn’t realize exactly what was happening while Serena Williams was experiencing a meltdown during their U.S. Open final match on Saturday.
“When you’re little, you’re taught not to look if your opponent gets angry or anything. You’re told to just turn around and try to focus, so I tried to do that,” Osaka told Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday’s broadcast of “Ellen.”
“But in my mind, I really wanted to know what was going on.”
After being issued a warning because her coach appeared to be making hand signals to her from the stands, Williams broke her racket and screamed at chair umpire Carlos Ramos. She ended up getting docked a point for racket abuse and then a game for verbal abuse.
Meanwhile, Osaka was trying to tune it all out.
“I couldn’t hear and I was looking away. But I heard a lot of people in the crowd making noises, and I really wanted to turn around,” said Osaka, 20, whose parents are from Japan and Haiti. “But I didn’t.”
Osaka ended up winning the match 6-2, 6-4 for her first Grand Slam title. She cried during the trophy presentation, not realizing why the still-fired-up crowd was booing. Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner, put her arm around the younger player’s shoulders and offered consolation.
“She said that she was proud of me, and that I should know that the crowd wasn’t booing at me,” Osaka said of Williams on “Ellen.” “I was really happy that she said that.
“At the time, I did kind of think they were booing at me. I couldn’t tell what was going on because it was just so loud in there, so it was a little bit stressful.”
Osaka seems to have put any negative feelings about the match behind her. On Thursday morning, she told reporters in Yokohama, Japan: “Because it was my first final and my first Grand Slam victory, overall I felt really happy and I know that I accomplished a lot.”