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Naomi Osaka suffers the agony of victory over idol Serena Williams

Osaka wins her first Grand Slam while Williams loses a point, a game and her composure in a match that left no one feeling like a champion

NEW YORK — Has there ever been a more miserable-looking Grand Slam champion than Naomi Osaka?

Osaka scored the biggest win of her career, becoming the first Japanese player ever to win a Grand Slam title by beating Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 at the US Open on Saturday afternoon.

In doing so, she cemented her status as the future of women’s tennis, but she did it while enduring the deafening boos from a crowd disappointed in the way the game was officiated.

As a result, Williams, 36, ended up switching from competitor mode to that of a mother, consoling the 20-year-old as she wept. It was an ugly win, and during her postmatch interview, Williams took to the mic to calm a loud, angry, booing crowd.

“I don’t want to do questions,” Williams said. “I just want to tell you guys she played well. This is her first Grand Slam. … Let’s not boo anymore.”

In what should have been the most triumphant moment of her career, Osaka ended up apologizing for winning.

“I know that everyone was cheering for [Williams], and I’m sorry it had to end like this,” Osaka said during her on-court postmatch interview. “I just want to say thank you for watching the match.”

Williams was penalized for a coaching violation, then threw her racket down in the second set for a point penalty. The umpire awarded a game to Osaka to put the new champion up 5-3 after a third violation, for verbal abuse, after Williams called him a “thief.” And while Williams and Osaka had an emotional embrace after the match, Williams refused to shake the hand of the chair umpire.

Adding to the fraught emotion of the win was the fact that Osaka, 20, and her sister, Mari, were inspired to start playing tennis after seeing the Williams sisters on television. Their father, Leonard Francois, famously coached his daughters, using Richard Williams as his model.

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the senior culture critic for Andscape. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on Black life.