As she gets ready to retire from tennis at the US Open, Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka paid respect to Serena Williams on Saturday, referring to the 23-time Grand Slam winner as sports’ “greatest force.”
In the tense 2018 New York final, Osaka, who had just denied Williams a record-tying 24th Grand Slam, said that the prospect of the American’s retirement had brought tears to her eyes.
Williams has paved the way for minority players, said the 24-year-old four-time Grand Slam champion who is of mixed ethnicity with an American-Haitian father and a Japanese mother.
Osaka said that her legacy was so extensive that it was difficult to put it into words.
“She significantly altered the sport. She has introduced tennis to individuals who had never heard of it. I believe that what she has done has resulted in me.
Without Serena, Venus, and her whole family, I wouldn’t be here. I’m very grateful to her.
“She is, in my opinion, the dominant force in the sport. That is not an attempt to purposefully make Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer smaller. She just strikes me as the greatest thing the sport has ever seen.
“Just getting to see her play is an honour. She is allowing us to observe her more.
Even before Williams made her retirement intentions public in an article published in Vogue magazine earlier this month, Osaka said she had suspicions about them.
Osaka broke down in tears while watching Williams play in Toronto before the announcement.
“It was quite strange. I saw her first game in Toronto before she made the announcement. I immediately began weeping because I felt it for some reason “She said.
“I had the impression that she was preparing for her last US trip. I just broke down in tears. The next day, she made an announcement.
“Oh, my God, this must be what devastation must feel like,” I thought.
Osaka said that Williams has encouraged a new generation of black tennis players.
“This aspect seems to me to be the most evident. But if you observe everyone who has skin similar to ours, it is evident that we did so “She said.