Overcoming a losing second set, Naomi Osaka went on to win the Australian Open

By Maria Pasquini
January 26, 2019 11:37 AM
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There was a lot on the line when Naomi Osaka walked onto the court on Saturday night.

After a losing second set, the 21-year-old tennis star — who picked up her first major title at the 2018 U.S. Open, beating pro Serena Williams — rallied to win her first-ever Australian open, and make history in the process.

On Monday, when the new tennis rankings are updated, the Japanese-born Osaka, who is currently ranked No. 5 in the world, will move all the way to the top, becoming the first Asian player of any gender to hold the No. 1 spot, according to The Telegraph.

After winning the match against Petra Kvitova, Osaka was instantly overcome with emotion, crouching down on the court. With tears in her eyes, the tennis champion got up to shake hands with her opponent before making her way over to the bench, where she crouched down to the floor again with her face in her hands.

During Saturday’s championship, Osaka beat Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4.

Naomi Osaka
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Following the game, a triumphant Osaka began her speech to the crowd with an apology.

“Sorry, public speaking isn’t really my strong side. I just hope I can get through this,” she humbly shared, before warmly thanking Kvitova.

“Huge congrats to you, Petra,” she began. “You’re really amazing and I’m so honored to have played you.”

Naomi Osaka
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“To my team, I don’t think I would have made it through this week behind you guys. Behind a tennis player is always a team so I’m really grateful,” she continued, before concluding her speech by admitting she had forgotten a bit of what she was “supposed to say.”

“I read notes before this but I still forgot the rest of what I was supposed to say,” Osaka said with a laugh. “So just thank you everyone and I’m really honored to have played in this final.”

Additionally, Osaka’s win makes her the youngest top-seated player since Caroline Wozniacki held the No. 1 spot in 2010, when she was only 20, according to Business Insider.

Osaka is also following in Williams’ footsteps, becoming the first woman to win back-to-back majors since the 37-year-old tennis star won the U.S. Open in 2014 and the 2015 Australian Open, Sporting News reported. That year, Williams also went on to win the French Open and Wimbledon.

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Osaka’s superstar status in the U.S. was solidified when she beat Williams in the U.S. Open women’s singles finals in September. Much of the aftermath of that game was dominated by Williams’ disagreement with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who she called a “thief.” She was later issued three violations, including one for breaking her racket. Critics called the punishment sexist, asserting that men regularly get angry on court without being penalized.

Osaka told PEOPLE at the time that she wasn’t nervous playing Williams “because I played her once before. The reason why I would be nervous was because I’ve never played a finals before. Otherwise, when I stepped onto the court I felt completely fine. When I play, I feel like a different person so I felt pretty comfortable.”
She then addressed the controversy, saying she “didn’t really know what [it] was about.”

“I felt like so much went on. I feel like I’ve never won a Grand Slam so everything feels really new,” she added. “I’ve been surrounded by my mom and my dad this entire time and we’ve been celebrating.”