Naomi Osaka used to dream about playing her idol, Serena Williams, in a Grand Slam final — especially the US Open. On Saturday, that dream matchup came to fruition and Osaka defeated Williams, 6-2, 6-4.
She focused on the match, she said, so she could concentrate on playing tennis.
"I think I was able to do that because it was my first Grand Slam final," she said in her press conference. "I felt like I shouldn't let myself be overcome by nerves or anything, and I should just really focus on playing tennis because that's what's gotten me to this point.
"So, yeah, I just thought, like, no matter what happens outside of the court, for me, when I step on the court, it's just about tennis."
As Osaka explained to a group of reporters, at one point during the match she asked herself how her idol would handle a certain shot, but then she realized the megastar was playing just across the net.
"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.”
After their match, Serena's display of sportsmanship showed many why she's worthy of being idolized. She reminded the crowd that it was Osaka's moment and that they should celebrate the 20-year-old's poise and title-winning performance.
Later, before embarking on the traditional post-win trophy tour, which stopped at the Top of the Rock in New York City, Osaka demonstrated another reason she's similar to Williams, tweeting her thanks for the opportunity to play at the US Open.