Naomi Osaka’s big U.S. Open victory overshadowed by unfortunate controversy


Creative Common

Naomi Osaka unleashes victory yell after a tennis match.

In case you missed it, the 2018 U.S. Open concluded Sept. 9 with Naomi Osaka claiming the title in the women’s singles division of the world’s premier Grand Slam in a controversial conclusion.

Unfortunately, what dominated news coverage of the tournament hardly even celebrated her victory. Instead, finals opponent Serena Williams’ confrontation with chair umpire Carlos Ramos is what stole the show. During the engagement, Williams berated Ramos by calling him a “thief” for taking a point from her, which factored heavily in the outcome of the match. Williams’s antics resulted in intense boos from the crowd due to the disappointing nature of the highly-anticipated match; even bringing Osaka to tears at one point. Certainly not the public reception she hoped for when dreaming of the moment for so long.

Make no mistake, Williams is a legendary athlete with an influence that extends far beyond tennis and even the entirety of sports in general. She has, and rightfully so, received an outpour of praise and admiration for overcoming recent life-threatening health complications to return to competition, much less making it back to the highest levels of her profession. Her actions at the U.S. Open, however, serve as a sobering reminder that even elite athletes have emotional meltdowns from time to time; only theirs occur for millions of eyes to view and dissect. From Tiger Woods throwing his golf club in disgust following a poor swing to Mike Tyson feasting on Evander Holyfield’s cartilage, the media has a field day because, well, sensationalism sells.    

But the Fifth Estate’s infatuation with reactionary reporting should not take away from the simple fact that Naomi Osaka is the 2018 U.S. Open champion, winning in dominant fashion and in the process becoming the first Grand Slam singles champion ever from Japan. I just want to make that clear, because that seems to have gotten lost in the news shuffle with all the hullabaloo over Williams. Osaka, just 20 years old, ranked seventh in the world as of this writing and is just beginning. She has a proven track record of beating the “who’s who” of women’s tennis, including Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep this year alone. Her aggressive offense, deft baseline touch, and overpowering serve suggest that she is likely to pile up titles in the future.

What makes the lack of coverage of Osaka’s victory even more heartbreaking is her stated idolization of Williams growing up. Williams’ greatness motivated Osaka to reach the heights that she has today; she even recalled writing a report about Williams for a third-grade school assignment. She watched Williams in person at the U.S. Open years ago, dreaming of one day facing her idol with a title on the line. To see her work so hard to get that opportunity and actually accomplish it only to be seen as a sideshow is a complete travesty. Williams may have won the battle for attention, but Osaka won the match that really mattered.