“Honor to Play Her”: Naomi Osaka Pays Glowing Tribute to Serena Williams After Australian Open 2021 Victory

Published 02/18/2021, 2:30 AM EST
Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka with Serena Williams of the U.S. after winning their semi final match REUTERS/Kelly Defina


Being humble in moments of triumph is a mark of a true champion and women’s World Number 3 Naomi Osaka showed just that as she paid glowing tributes to a vanquished opponent in Serena Williams after reaching the Australian Open final on Thursday.

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Speaking courtside after the 6-3, 6-4 win, her second straight victory over the American in a Grand Slam after the 2018 US Open final, Osaka conceded that she was a bit overawed and “nervous” in the opening exchanges.

Osaka reveals she was “nervous” early in the semifinal clash against Serena Williams

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However, the Japanese said that she managed to calm her nerves and gradually “ease” her way into the contest. Acknowledging the presence of a crowd “in a while”, Osaka said it helped lift her game against the old champion.

An unabashed Serena fan right from her early years in the game, the Japanese said “it was an honor to play her” again.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Serena Williams of the U.S. leaves the court after losing her semi final match against Japan’s Naomi Osaka REUTERS/Loren Elliott

“I just didn’t wanna go out, like really bad. So I just wanted to try my best,” Osaka said, summing up her performance with characteristic brevity.

However, more than her words, it was her tennis that spoke louder on the day as she simply overwhelmed Serena with a high percentage of first-serves and winning points.

Naomi Osaka put the squeeze on Serena Williams’ serve

A raft of unforced errors as pressure was brought to bear on her serve didn’t help Serena’s cause either. A key accessory in her all-round power game, Serena’s serves were strangely off on the day it mattered the most.

The percentage of her first serves in the entire match was 65% to Osaka’s 85%.

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Serena did attempt to stage a comeback late in the second set, winning a break off the Japanese. However, Osaka seized the momentum right back with a break of serve in the next game, extending her lead to 5-4.

She then served out a flawless game to reach the title round as Serena suffered another sobering loss in her quest for a record 24th title.

A sullen Serena packed off her gear and walked off the arena with unshed tears as another Australian Open campaign came to an agonizing end.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

845 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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