As Naomi Osaka prepares for Saturday’s Australian Open final against Petra Kvitova, one thing she will be praying for is an enthusiastic welcome – win or lose – when she steps up to receive her trophy.
This might sound like a statement of the obvious. But the tennis world is still digesting the events of Sept 8: the night when Osaka defeated Serena Williams in a tumultuous US Open final, and the result was met with boos.
Over the past three months, debate has raged over whether Williams – who received three code violations from chair umpire Carlos Ramos – was unfairly treated. In Osaka’s case, nobody could possibly deny it.
Here was her first major title, the moment she had been working towards since she was tiny. Yet she was forced to pull her cap down over her face in an (unsuccessful) attempt to disguise her misery and embarrassment. To make matters worse, Katrina Adams – the then president of the United States Tennis Association – took the microphone and announced “Perhaps it’s not the finish we were looking for today.”
It is all the more remarkable, then, that Osaka has refused to be knocked out of her stride. By claiming her breakthrough slam, and then reaching the final of the next major event, she has already pulled off a double not seen in 18 years. The last person to do it was Jennifer Capriati, who was 24 when she captured the Australian Open and then the French Open in the first half of 2001.