Naomi Osaka downed Madison Keys in the US Open semi-final to reach her first ever Major final. Osaka is the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final and although she won 6-2, 6-4, the fight was much harder than what the scoreline suggested. Osaka saved 13 break points through the course of the match and come Sunday, she faces her childhood idol Serena Williams in the final. When asked in the post-match on-court interview if she had any message to give her upcoming opponent, Osaka managed to say “I love you” before bursting into a fit of giggles.
Naomi Osaka’s message to Serena before they face each other in the US Open final?
“I love you.” 😂😭 pic.twitter.com/B7m8FzJWjm
— espnW (@espnW) 7 September 2018
Through the course of the tournament, Osaka’s on-court interviews have drawn almost as much attention as her red-hot run through it. When asked what motivated her to save 13 break points through the match, she said, “This is going to sound really bad, but I was just thinking I really want to play Serena.”
13 break points saved…How did you do that?
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) 7 September 2018
“It feels a little bit surreal,” she later said in the press conference. “Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam.
“At the same time I feel like even though I should enjoy this moment, I should still think of it as another match. I shouldn’t really think of her as my idol. I should just try to play her as an opponent.”
Osaka won her first career title at Indian Wells this year but had never beaten Keys before in three attempts and lost to the American at Flushing Meadows in 2016.
“It still feels really weird because I’ve never beaten Madison before,” Osaka said. “She’s a really good player… I thought I was visibly shaking and stuff (from nervousness).”