Naomi Osaka Just Won a Second Grand Slam Title—and Becomes Tennis's No. 1 Female Player

You might remember Naomi Osaka from last year's controversial U.S. Open final: The Japanese-born 21-year-old tennis pro beat her longtime idol Serena Williams and accepted her trophy amid boos from audience members, who felt Williams had been unfairly penalized by a ref. It was a tough moment for Osaka—but she just asserted herself again by securing a second Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

Osaka, who plays for Japan, showed that she's a force to be reckoned with by edging out Czech player Petra Kvitova on Saturday. She'd lost her second set during the match but rallied and wound up finishing strong. Her victory means she'll move up in the rankings to become No. 1, making her the first Asian player of any gender to hold that spot.

“I felt like I didn’t want to have any regrets,” Osaka said. “I think if I didn’t regroup after the second set, then I would have looked back on this match and probably cried or something.”

Now, Osaka has made history. She's also proved her staying power after the contentious match she played against Williams, which was so intense that Osaka publicly burst into tears and, in a heartbreaking moment, apologized to the booing crowd. Despite the difficulty of the moment, Osaka revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that Williams, who directed the audience to stop jeering, had also whispered some encouraging words in her ear after they'd played.

"She said that she was proud of me and that I should know that the crowd wasn't booing at me," Osaka said. "So I was really happy with what she said. At the time, I did kind of think they were booing at me. I couldn’t tell what was going on because it was just so loud in there, so it was a little bit stressful."

No such booing overshadowed her victory at the Australian Open today. Congrats to Osaka—and her new No. 1 ranking.

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Published at Sat, 26 Jan 2019 19:22:12 +0000