Naomi Osaka said Serena Williams’s row with the umpire during the U.S. Open final had not altered her feelings about winning a Grand Slam largely because she had no idea how she was supposed to react, the Japanese said on Thursday.
Osaka’s breakthrough triumph in New York was overshadowed by an explosive row between her opponent Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos which resulted in the 23-times Grand Slam champion being docked a game and fined $17,000.
At Flushing Meadows on Saturday, the 20-year-old was reduced to tears during the presentation ceremony but on her arrival back in Japan on Thursday, she said she had not been saddened by the incident.
“For me, I don’t feel sad because I wouldn’t even know what I’m expected to feel,” she told a news conference in Yokohama ahead of the Pan Pacific tournament that begins on Monday.
“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.
“I don’t think I even thought about feeling sad because there’s no experience for me to draw on (from) any other Grand Slam final.”
One of the most controversial Grand Slam finals of all time divided tennis and triggered a debate about sexism in the sport, fueled by Williams’s assertion that Ramos would not have dealt with a male player in the same way.
Much of the criticism of Williams has centered on how her actions had spoiled a precious moment for Osaka, who was even moved to apologies for beating the home favorite to a New York crowd angrily booing Ramos.
In becoming her country’s first ever Grand Slam singles champion, Osaka, the daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, is also helping break new ground in Japan as her biracial identity challenges the country’s self-image as a racially homogenous society.
Public attitudes are slowly changing as Japanese society becomes more integrated with the global economy, and the emergence of more ethnically mixed celebrities, especially in sport, is helping.
For her part, Osaka is not thinking too much about how her identity is perceived.
“For me, I’m just me,” said Osaka, when asked whether she represented a ‘new Japan’