Twenty-two year old tennis phenomenon Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open tournament at Arthur Ashe Stadium in NYC on Saturday, netting her second U.S. Open title and her third Grand Slam win overall.
Osaka was victorious against her opponent Victoria Azarenka ( 1-6, 6-3, 6-3), reclaiming a title she first copped in 2018 when facing off with Serena Williams.
Azarenka took the first set in a dizzying 26 minutes. Just moments later, Osaka found herself a point away from falling into a 3-0 hole in the second set. When the analysts, the Twitter experts, maybe even her opponent, had all but counted her out, she remained calm.
“I just start thinking point by point,” she said. “I wasn’t really thinking about winning after a certain while. I just thought about, ‘I came here with a goal, I’m playing in the final, a lot of people want to be in this final, so I can’t lose 6-1, 6-0.’”
Her strategy worked. After an hour and 53 minutes, she was crowned the champion and became the first woman since Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario in 1994 to win the US Open after dropping the first set.
For each of her seven games in the tournament, Osaka donned face masks that bore the names of Black people killed by racist violence in America: Breonna Taylor, Elijah Mclain, Tamir Rice, Philando Castle, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Trayvon Martin.
In a post-game media interview, Osaka made it clear that she wants to leverage her platform to ensure the fight for Black lives doesn’t fade into the background:
Osaka was celebrated in the stadium (made sparse due to coronavirus considerations) by her adorably supportive boo, the rapper Cordae:
Osaka said quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic made her want to work harder when she hit the court, and added that the past few months have made her think about what she wants people to remember her by.
“I would like to thank my ancestors because everytime I remember their blood runs through my veins I am reminded that I cannot lose,” said the young champion, who is the daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother, on Twitter the morning after her win.
Osaka was declared the world’s highest paid female athlete by Forbes earlier this year, and is expected to rise to No. 3 in the global ranking of tennis players after this U.S. Open win.
Correction: 9/13/2020, 2:32 ET A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Osaka’s father is Japanese and her mother is Haitian. This has been corrected above.