Osaka, who was born in Japan but moved to the US when she was three, stood wiping tears from her eyes, as the crowd booed.
Her win had been overshadowed by an ongoing controversy between Williams and notoriously strict umpire, Carlos Ramos. It started when Williams was given a coaching violation early in the second set, which she immediately disputed, and ultimately, the battle between Williams and the umpire escalated to a game penalty for verbal abuse.
“Every time I play here, I have problems,” the 36-year-old told the umpire. “I did not get coaching, I don’t cheat. You need to make an announcement. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. You owe me an apology.
“For you to attack my character is something that is wrong.
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“How many other men do things? There’s a lot of men out here who have said a lot of things. It’s because I am a woman, and that’s not right.”
Despite her frustrations, however, when it came time for Osaka to receive her first ever grand slam trophy, Williams was the one who demanded the passionate US crowd stop booing her. “I don’t want to be rude. She played well,” she said. “Let’s make this the best moment we can, let’s not boo any more.”
Now, in an exclusive interview with Mamamia, recorded for an upcoming Berlei campaign for the I Touch Myself Project that will launch in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the tennis icon has shared the first thing she did when she left the stadium.
“Besides cry, I don’t know, it was interesting,” she told Mia Freedman in an episode of No Filter, recorded just three days after the US Open final. “I got in the car, and Olympia was in the car. It was so weird, and she started giving me kisses, she never gives me kisses. She doesn’t even know to give kisses, and she just grabbed me, and I was like this little baby is so smart. It’s just hard to be too down when you have a little one… when you have someone to take care of.
“Like I have to take care of this person, and I have to do this type of stuff, it puts everything in perspective.”
Williams said she was doing, “okay, [but] not great” in the wake of the media attention around the US Open final. Her behaviour on the court immediately after the controversy was both praised and vilified, almost in equal measure. “I’m doing the best that I can to try and move forward,” she said. “But most of all, spending time with Olympia, she’s here in the background… you realise the most important things that really matter.”
Throughout Williams’ interview with Freedman, the sounds of one-year-old Olympia babbling can be heard clearly. It’s apparent that she’s close by, playing with mum, while she works.
Freedman asked Williams about the way she’s made lifting women up her “mission,” even during a particularly low point at the US Open. Her public support of Naomi Osaka, certainly, was no accident.