NAOMI Osaka is the 2018 champion of the U.S. Open Tennis Finals. The 20-year old Japanese national, defeated her idol, Serena Williams. The latter who has achieved 23 Grand Slam victories is a legend of her own time, beating such tennis greats like Steffi Graf, 22; Martina Navratilova, 18 and Chris Evert, 18.
People look up to sport champions for their physical stamina and talent. But there are champions who are not worthy of emulation and do not deserve admiration for their conduct and character.
Well, Serena Williams demonstrated bad behavior during her clash with Osaka; and not only was it shown to the whole world, it became more obvious with the contrasting humble demeanor of the youthful victor.
One writer said of Williams, “Her tantrum was calculated, cynical and selfish.”
Williams committed three violations during the game: for on-court coaching; for smashing her racket in frustration; and for verbal abuse toward chair umpire Carlos Ramos. Her handlers tried hard to pin the blame on the umpire, but the latter was proven right in all counts. Williams was fined $17,000.
While winners raise their arms, give their best smiles or exude so much joy (think of Usain Bolt), Osaka was in tears. The mean audience booed her for defeating Williams, and the head of the governing body of tennis was no help either, lavishing Williams with praises instead of focusing on Osaka.
Osaka described fascination with Williams in this manner: “When I was growing up, I did a whole report on her in third grade. I colored it and everything. I said, ‘I want to be like her.’ [I might still have it] in a folder at home or something. I’m not sure.”
On the misconduct of Williams, Osaka responded: “It doesn’t change anything for me. She was really nice to me, like, at the net and on the podium. I don’t really see what would change.” It is like a feel-good movie script, but this was Osaka revealing her true character.
A genuine champion is much about excellence in the court as well as off-court, and Osaka embodied these characteristics. Williams has been a dominant force in the women’s tennis for more than 20 years, and sadly, she may be leaving us with a rather sad conclusion.
At the same time, it ushers a bright future for the sport with a talent and character such as Osaka.
Hopefully, Osaka will not be changed by eager management teams and publicists who may have their own agenda to make her more of a commodity than a person, which probably pushed Williams into that meltdown.
I am not a tennis player nor a fan of tennis, but with Osaka as the new poster girl of women’s tennis, I may be watching the next tournament she will be competing in. Osaka is the real Grand Slam.