Naomi Osaka knocks off Serena Williams for U.S. Open title

20-year-old Naomi Osaka knocked off Serena Williams in straight sets on Saturday afternoon to win the U.S. Open, her first Grand Slam title. (Getty Images)
20-year-old Naomi Osaka knocked off Serena Williams in straight sets on Saturday afternoon to win the U.S. Open, her first Grand Slam title. (Getty Images)

Serena Williams has, rightfully so, earned the title as the best woman to ever play tennis.

That, though, didn’t faze 20-year-old Japanese phenom Naomi Osaka.

Osaka dominated Williams 6-2, 6-4 on Saturday afternoon Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City to win the U.S. Open — her first Grand Slam title. Her win also makes her the first Japanese player to win a major title.

Osaka rolled through the first set, winning five straight games after dropping the first game early. Williams struggled to handle Osaka’s serves, and seemed to be on her heels the entire time.

Williams pulled it together and jumped to a 3-1 lead in the second set, seeming to have found her footing.

Frustration had set in, though. Williams was issued a warning early by the chair umpire who thought that she had received on court coaching, which is illegal in tennis. After a lengthy back and forth, Williams went back and, just a few games later, smashed her own racket out of frustration.

She was then assessed a game penalty after multiple lengthy conversations with the official, one in which she called him a “thief” and demanded an apology. She argued that she was being targeted because of her gender.

Down 5-3, Williams came back out and dominated in the next game after meeting with the officials, sweeping Osaka to bring it to 5-4.

From that point, nearly any momentum that the 23-time Grand Slam winner had was gone. Osaka took the final game to win the set 6-4, winning her first U.S. Open.

An awkward trophy presentation

Once things had calmed down after the wild finish, both Williams and Osaka gathered at the center of the court for the trophy presentation — which was met with loud boos from the crowd.

ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi led the presentation, and started with Williams. When he asked her his first question about the match, though, she wasn’t having it.

“I don’t want to be rude, but I don’t want to interrupt. I don’t want to do questions,” Williams said, refusing to answer his question. “I just want to tell you guys, [Osaka] played well. This is her first Grand Slam.

“I know you guys were here rooting and I was rooting too, but let’s make this the best moment we can and we’ll get through it. But let’s give everyone the credit where credit is due and let’s not boo anymore. We’re going to get through this and let’s be positive. Congratulations Naomi. No more booing.”

She then thanked her team, the crowd and stepped aside.

Rinaldi turned to Osaka, and asked her about the match.

She also didn’t answer his question.

“I know that everyone was cheering for her, and I’m sorry it had to end like this,” Osaka said during the presentation. “I just want to say thank you for watching the match. Thank you.”

Osaka continued.

“It was always my dream to play Serena in the U.S. Open finals, so I’m really glad I was able to do that,” Osaka said.

“I’m really glad I was able to play with you,” Osaka then said directly to Williams. “Thank you.”

USTA Chairman of the Board and president Katrina Adams released a statement on Saturday afternoon praising Williams for her actions on the podium after the match, too.

“What Serena did on the podium today showed a great deal of class and sportsmanship,” Adams said in a statement. “This was Naomi’s moment, and Serena wanted her to be able to enjoy it. That was a class move from a true champion. What Serena has accomplished this year in playing her way back on to the tour is truly amazing. She continues to inspire, because she continues to strive to be the best. She owns virtually every page of the record book, but she’s never been one to rest on her laurels. She’s always working to improve; always eager to embrace new challenges; and to set new standards. She is an inspiration to me, personally, and a credit to our sport, win or lose.

“I know that she was frustrated about the way the match played out, but the way she stepped up after the final and gave full credit to Naomi for a match well-played speaks volumes about who she is.”

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