Ignore the huge controversy involving Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos – Naomi Osaka was the better woman and deserved her US Open title, writes Carrie Dunn.
The 2018 US Open final might be remembered as the one where Serena Williams, on her road back from maternity leave, found herself embroiled in controversy with officials once more; where she found herself docked a point and then a game; where she missed out on her record-equalling 24th Grand Slam.
But that would be absolutely wrong and unfair.
The 2018 US Open final should be remembered for its scintillating tennis – Williams’s magnificent dropshotting, Naomi Osaka’s wonderful forehand, the brilliant rallying.
And it should be remembered as a final that Osaka thoroughly deserved to win.
The 20-year-old looked composed from the off, smiling shyly for the pre-match photos where her opponent looked grim-faced and tense. She got the early break, meeting Williams’s power with increased power, using her knees excellently to gain speed of movement, and took the first set before any of Serena’s issues with the umpire began to surface.
Even then, the 20th seed maintained her focus, not being distracted by what was going on around her.
Osaka wept when she won, climbing a ladder to get to her team and her family, and clung to her mother, who dissolved in tears as soon as she saw her.
She cried even more on the podium – as the crowd booed throughout the trophy ceremony, she pulled her hat down over her eyes, and her opponent put her arms round her in an effort to comfort her.
The first-ever Japanese Grand Slam winner had spoken about her dream final – and here she got to face, and beat, her childhood idol. The angry, confusing, chaotic denouement might have been more of a nightmare.
“I know that everyone was cheering for her. I’m sorry it had to end like this,” she said in the post-match interview, still tearfully and obviously shaken.
And when it comes to looking back at the footage of the final, she will realise – she was going to beat her hero in straight sets, and would have done it even without the penalties.
What a champion.