There's certainly a lot to be said about the controversy surrounding Serena Williams' penalties during her U.S. Open final against Naomi Osaka, but let's take a moment to focus on the winner for a moment. Osaka played an incredible match and was a gracious winner, despite a chorus of boos and jeers that erupted in the stadium when she clinched the win, mostly in response to umpire Carlos Ramos' calls.
Swinging by The Ellen DeGeneres Show Wednesday to discuss the experience of winning her first-ever Grand Slam title, Osaka also chose to open up about what she was thinking when the controversy began to unfurl on the court. (As a reminder, Williams was issued three violations from Ramos for the following reasons: coaching, racket abuse, and verbal abuse.) While Osaka ultimately remained in a game-ready headspace, it didn't come easy with the less-than-friendly surroundings.
"When you're little, you're taught not to look at, like, if your opponent gets angry or anything," Osaka explained on the show. "You're told to just turn around and try to focus, so I tried to do that, but in my mind I was sort of…like, I really wanted to know what was going on. 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, but I didn't."
Despite the drama that plagued their final set, Osaka and Williams put on a beautifully unified front during the awards ceremony, with Williams even whispering affirmations to Osaka before the game ended. "She said that she was proud of me and that I should know that the crowd wasn't booing at me," Osaka recalled. "So I was really happy with what she said. 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."
As Osaka previously recounted, Williams' behavior after the match made her "happy overall," since she directly told attendees to stop booing and instead celebrate the win that occurred. As for why she felt the need to apologize for winning, well, Osaka still isn't sure. "I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there and I know that the ending wasn't really how people wanted it to be," she said earlier this week. "I know that, in my dreams, I won, like, in a very tough, competitive match. So, I don't know, I just felt very emotional and I felt like I had to apologize."
One thing's for sure: This athlete should never have to apologize for her success. Congrats, Naomi!