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Serena Williams is still the face of tennis, says Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams
Rudra Biswas
ANALYST
Modified 21 Feb 2021
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Naomi Osaka sparkled on Saturday as she defeated USA's Jennifer Brady in straight sets to win her second Australian Open title. The Japanese star has now won four Grand Slams at the age of 23, and is being pegged by many to replace Serena Williams as the "face of women's tennis".

Naomi Osaka was also the one who ended Serena Williams' challenge in the semis, thereby denying the American a shot at tying Margaret Court's record tally of 24 Majors. Osaka was so clinical in the match that it prompted the media to question the Japanese whether Williams' time as the predominant WTA icon was over.

However, Naomi Osaka refused to fall for the bait.

"No, not at all," Osaka replied when she was asked whether Serena Williams' place in women's tennis had begun to shift.

Naomi Osaka's appeal has grown rapidly not only due to her results, but also because of her personality and activism. During her US Open triumph last year, Osaka walked on to the court for each of her seven matches wearing black masks bearing the names of racial injustice victims.

All things considered, it is no surprise that Naomi Osaka has become such an influential figure in tennis. The 23-year-old, however, has continued to keep her feet on the ground while eschewing any comparisons with Serena Williams, who herself revolutionized tennis earlier in her illustrious career.

"I think there is a difference in my emotions, I'm more peaceful now" - Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka kisses the Australian Open trophy
Naomi Osaka kisses the Australian Open trophy

During her press conference, Naomi Osaka was also asked to shed some light on her title-winning campaign at the 2019 Australian Open and compare her two triumphs in Melbourne.

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The Japanese had captured the No. 1 ranking after back-to-back Major victories at the 2018 US Open (where she incidentally beat Serena Williams in the final) and the 2019 Australian Open. But that was also a tumultuous period for her, given that she only just learning to deal with the expectations of fans.

"I think there is a difference in my emotions and the way that actually the last time I won here I was kind of playing off anger, in a way," Osaka said.

The Japanese player admitted that back in 2019 she was very keen on winning back-to-back titles at the US Open and Australian Open, as she believed that would helped her establish her place in WTA. But after cementing her status as one of the top players in the world over the last couple of years, she is now more calm about her tennis.

"Just because I felt like I wanted to stamp my place on the tour. So I really wanted to win back-to-back US Open and Australian Open," Osaka said. "This time around I'm more at peace with where I am, and I'm just honestly happy to be playing a Slam in a pandemic. So yeah, I'm more peaceful now."
Published 21 Feb 2021, 17:16 IST
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