'Wasn't Scared, Just Very Nervous': Osaka Recounts Facing Serena Williams For First Time

'Wasn't Scared, Just Very Nervous': Osaka Recounts Facing Serena Williams For First Time

by Nurein Ahmed

Naomi Osaka recently described her first experience facing her childhood idol and favorite player, Serena Williams, in an actual match on tour.

Williams, now retired and focusing on balancing motherhood with business ventures, is considered among the greatest tennis players of all time. She won the second-most Grand Slam titles on the women's circuit with 23, along with a multitude of other huge accomplishments.

During her near three-decade playing career, which was filled with more highs than lows, Serena inspired many players to pick up a racket. She is also one of the most influential figures in the sport owing to her ability to command an audience and use her platform to advocate for change in women's sports.

One of those women she has inspired is Naomi Osaka. The Japanese star has played her idol on four occasions in the past and leads the head-to-head 3-1. Although their rivalry only developed in Serena's late career phase, it was one of the most gripping.

Osaka and Serena have a 16-year age gap. When they met for the first time at the 2018 Miami Open, the legendary American had embarked on her first season as a mother. Osaka, meanwhile, was still only 20 at the time and was emerging as the next breakout star.

In an interview with the Broadcast Boys, which was shared on Instagram, the four-time Grand Slam champion was asked whether she was "scared" about confronting Williams for the first time in a match.

"I wasn't scared, I was just very nervous because I didn't know what would happen and I just didn't want her to think I was a bad tennis player. And yeah (I won)."

Osaka was coming off her biggest WTA title just a week earlier in Indian Wells. Just a few days later, when she played Serena in the second round in Miami, she stormed to a 6-3, 6-2 win. Later that year, she defeated her idol for a second time in the US Open final to land her first major.


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