Naomi Osaka didn't see what caused the uproar during the U.S. Open final she was playing against her idol, Serena Williams, so she was confused when it left the crowd booing — apparently for her.
Williams' argument with the match umpire over a coaching violation turned into a point for Osaka, then a game, in a much-maligned coaching decision that helped cement a first Grand Slam win for Osaka. But the 20-year-old said Monday that she had her back turned when the argument unfolded, so she wasn't sure why the New York City crowd was booing during the trophy presentation, which led to her apologizing for the victory.
"I felt a little bit sad because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or if it wasn't the outcome that they wanted," she said on the "Today" show. "I also could sympathize because I've been a fan of Serena my whole life and I knew how badly the crowd wanted to win."
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Both players cried at the ceremony. Williams asked the crowd to stop booing and salute Osaka to make it "the best moment we can," while Osaka apologized to the crowd.
"I know that everyone was cheering for her and I'm sorry it had to end like this," Osaka said Saturday.
She explained Monday that she was emotional and disappointed with the outcome as well, having dreamt of winning the trophy in a competitive match.
"I felt like I had to apologize," she said.
Williams' argument with umpire Carlos Ramos, which resulted in $17,000 in fines for Williams, completely overshadowed the match, whose first set Osaka dominated 6-2. The second set finished 6-4, with one game awarded to Osaka after Williams repeatedly called Ramos a thief for docking a point for a coaching violation that Williams insisted she didn't deserve.
The Women's Tennis Association joined Williams and a chorus of commentators who said the player was punished for something men get away with all the time.
Osaka said Monday that she hadn't had time to look at the news and form an opinion on what happened in the 36 hours since she won.
Osaka, the first Japanese person to win the U.S. Open (her mother is from Japan and her father is from Haiti), grew up idolizing Williams. She'd played her once before, but she was very nervous because now she was matching up against Williams in a Grand Slam final.
"Right before I was walking onto the court I was freaking out a little bit, but when I went onto the court, it didn't feel like she was Serena, it felt like she was another player," Osaka said.
Williams appeared to comfort Osaka on the dais after the match, hugging her and whispering something in her ear as the crowd booed and Osaka covered her face.
Osaka didn't say Monday what Williams told her, only that it made her happy.
With the win, Osaka rises to No. 7 in the women's tennis rankings, nine places above Williams.