— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) March 21, 2018
As Serena Williams continues her comeback to tennis following the birth of her daughter, a new tennis darling has stepped into the spotlight. Naomi Osaka beat her idol and 23-time Grand Slam champion at the Miami Open Wednesday, March 21 and her reaction said it all.
“Omg,” the 20-year-old captioned a photo of the pair shaking hands following the first round 6-3, 6-2 match.
Osaka’s win follows her snagging her first career title at Indian Wells and comes after Osaka, who represents Japan on the court while proudly touting her Haitian heritage, beat four other current or former World Tennis Association no. 1s including Russian Maria Sharapova, who sees herself a Williams’ rival.
However, Osaka doesn’t feel that way about Williams. Embracing her as her favorite player, the up-and-comer told WTA Insider following the match that she was a bundle of nerves.
“I was extremely nervous coming on to the court,” said the star who timed in an impressive 125 mph serve at the 2016 U.S. Open, which only eight other women have been able to do. “I don’t know if anybody knows this, but Serena’s my favorite players. Just playing against her is kind of like a dream for me, so I’m very grateful that I was able to play her and it’s even better that I was able to win.”
Still, that doesn’t mean Williams is brooding.
In a statement released through the WTA following the match, Williams said, “Every tournament is an opportunity for me to better understand the areas I need to improve to be my best.
“Naomi played a great match and I learn something each time I play,” added the pro, who came off a third-round loss to sister Venus Williams at Indian Wells. “I look forward to continuing my return by progressing every day. I’m so grateful for my fans who continue to support me every step of this incredible journey.”
The new mom also recognized Osaka’s talent at the Austrailian Open in 2016.
“I have seen her play. She’s really young and really aggressive,” Williams told USAToday. “She’s a really good, talented player. Very dangerous.”