Naomi Osaka not resentful of booing in U.S. Open win over Serena Williams


Naomi Osaka reacts after winning a set. (Adam Hunger/AP)

Defending U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka is not one to hold a grudge.

In an interview with TIME’s Sean Gregory, the 21-year-old said she wouldn’t change anything that happened in her win against Serena Williams last September, when the Japanese-born player earned her first Grand Slam title under a wave of boos from the crowd in Flushing Meadows.

Williams was searching for her record-tying 24th major title after going through life-threatening complications while giving birth in September 2017. After vocally expressing her discontent with the officiating and calling chair umpire Carlos Ramos a “liar” and a “thief,” Williams was assessed a game-losing code violation in the third set, eventually falling to Osaka and triggering the rage of the crowd.

“Serena is Serena,” Osaka told TIME. “I didn’t experience her life. I can’t tell her what she’s supposed to do, because there are things that she’s gone through. I have nothing against her or anything. I actually still really love her.”

Osaka apologized to Williams and the fans in her speech at Arthur Ashe stadium after the American urged the crowd to give the champion recognition for her feat.

Osaka, who turned pro at just 14-years-old, is the fourth seed at the 2019 Australian Open — which begins Jan. 14 in Melbourne. The recently released main draw shows that Osaka could play a rematch with Williams in the semifinals.

In her Time interview, the rising star doesn’t seem to be dwelling on last year’s adversities as she prepares for what will most likely be the biggest challenge of her career.

“In a perfect dream, things would be set exactly the way you would want them,” she told Gregory. “But I think it’s more interesting that in real life, things aren’t exactly the way you planned. And there are certain situations that you don’t expect, but they come to you, and I think those situations set up things for further ahead.”

Osaka will face world No. 86 Magda Linette, of Poland, in the first round of the Australian Open.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.