By Godwin Aikigbe
New US Open champion, Naomi Osaka, said she never took her foot off the pedal against Serena Williams during Saturday’s Women Singles final, having watched the American come back to win so many matches.
The new Japanese heroine said this after she defeated the former world number one 6-2, 6-4 to claim her first Grand Slam title and denied her opponent her 24th Gram Slam, which would have seen her tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.
“For me, I never thought that I was beating her. In my mind, I always think she’s going to come back from this. Because I’ve watched so many matches where she comes back from a really hard position, so I never tried to put my foot off the gas, I just kept thinking next point, next point, next point then before I knew it, it was over,” Naomi was quoted as saying on the tournament’s official website after she became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
“For me, I never thought that I was beating her. In my mind, I always think she’s going to come back from this. Because I’ve watched so many matches where she comes back from a really hard position, so I never tried to put my foot off the gas, I just kept thinking next point, next point, next point then before I knew it, it was over.
“I think when I go on the court I sort of become a different person. Today, I was thinking that I have this really amazing opportunity to play against one of the greatest players and I really shouldn’t take this chance for granted and I should just fight for everything and never get upset because that would be so disrespectful, so I just kept thinking about that.
“When she broke me that one game and I kept having to try to save the break points, I was like, “What would Serena…? Oh, she’s right there. Oh wait, what am I doing?” Then I was like, “No. You have to do it. You do it by yourself.” And I was like, “No, but Serena’s better.” Then there was this weird thinking going on and I saved two, then I was like, “Just keep going for it.” Then when I said, “keep going for it,” I missed it and I was like, “If you did what Serena was going to do, you wouldn’t have missed it.” I’m sorry, sometimes my brain goes places.
“I hope people don’t look at me differently. I don’t know, for me I feel like I will stay the same person. I’m not really sure what’s going to change. I haven’t gone outside of this facility yet. I’m not sure what to expect, to be honest.
“I feel like it’s incredible what Venus and Serena have done. Just to keep being that inspiration for kids. And I’m not a kid, but I’ll refer to myself as a kid, too. Just to keep being that inspiration, it’s something that everyone should be really grateful for. I’m really glad they’re still playing.
“Whenever I play tennis I feel like it’s something I’m really good at and something that I know — not that it’s a talent, but that I’ve worked at it for so long — [so] I want people to watch. But then when I’m off the court, I just feel like I’m just really weird, so I don’t want people to see me. I don’t know how to explain it.
“I’ve learned that I love New York. I just feel like I’ve gotten more confidence in myself. I think beating her and then doing well in Indian Wells for sure boosted my confidence. Between Indian Wells and here I haven’t really done that well, but I think just to regain that mentality coming into this tournament, I feel really proud of myself and I know that I do really well here. I’m just really happy I was able to win.”