Osaka has no US Open re­grets

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

YOKO­HAMA. — Japan’s Naomi Osaka has re­fused to crit­i­cise Ser­ena Wil­liams af­ter her his­toric US Open ten­nis vic­tory was over­shad­owed by the Amer­i­can’s fu­ri­ous row with the chair um­pire.

The 20-year-old melted hearts when she broke down sob­bing af­ter thrash­ing her idol 6-2, 6-4 to be­come Japan’s first Grand Slam sin­gles cham­pion in New York last week­end.

Ja­panese ten­nis leg­end Kimiko Date said it made her “heart ache” to see Osaka re­duced to tears and un­able to savour her mo­ment of glory.

But af­ter re­turn­ing to Japan yes­ter­day, Osaka in­sisted there were no hard feel­ings to­wards Wil­liams, who branded um­pire Car­los Ramos a “thief” in an as­ton­ish­ing tantrum trig­gered by a code vi­o­la­tion for coach­ing that cul­mi­nated in a docked game.

“For me I don’t feel sad be­cause I wouldn’t even know what I’m ex­pected to feel,” said Osaka, who has climbed from 19th to sev­enth in the new world rank­ings.

“I don’t think I even thought about feel­ing sad be­cause there’s no ex­pe­ri­ence for me to draw on in any other Grand Slam fi­nal,” she added.

“I just thought I shouldn’t have any re­grets. Over­all I felt re­ally happy and know I ac­com­plished a lot.”

Osaka, who com­petes at next week’s Pan Pa­cific Open in Tokyo, also re­vealed her plans to break into the top five this year - and win a shiny gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I think for this year my im­me­di­ate goal would be to get to Sin­ga­pore,” said Osaka af­ter putting her­self firmly in con­tention to reach the sea­son-end­ing WTA Fi­nals.

“I want to do well at the Pan Pa­cific Open and maybe year-end top five - but I’m not putting pres­sure on my­self. For now I’m just sort of rid­ing the wave.”

“Of course I’m very ex­cited the Olympics are go­ing to be held in Tokyo,” added Osaka, who is of Haitian-Ja­panese de­scent and was raised in the United States.

“It’s ev­ery ath­lete’s dream to play in the Olympics, so of course it would be my goal to win gold.”

Date, a for­mer world num­ber four, has tipped Osaka to be­come Japan’s first ten­nis num­ber one.

But for now Osaka is itch­ing to do nor­mal stuff - like catch up with big sis­ter Mari, who is also a pro­fes­sional ten­nis player, go shop­ping and eat her favourite match ice cream.

“I guess I’d like to hang out with my sis­ter - I haven’t seen her since Wim­ble­don,” said Osaka, who has be­come an un­likely hero in a coun­try still reel­ing af­ter a sum­mer of deadly ty­phoons and earth­quakes.

“The Pan Pa­cific is so close and I have to be on a diet for my matches, so maybe af­ter­wards for the ice cream.”

Asked how she felt about be­ing a role model for young chil­dren, Osaka gave mixed sig­nals.

“I’ve al­ways thought Kei (Nishikori) was a su­per good role model and hope­fully I can be that too,” she said. “But don’t look up to me, be­cause I don’t want that re­spon­si­bil­ity!”

Naomi Osaka

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