World number one and defending champion Serena Williams did not walk out of her press conference after her semifinal win over Karolina Pliskova because of a heckler, but the champion’s opponent (during) probably should have seen the scuffle coming.
No, it wasn’t a pro-Russia heckler. Serena’s opponent at the U.S. Open, Canadian Naomi Osaka, hesitated to give a prepared statement in a press conference after her match against Williams Friday night, because she apparently had a momentary meltdown.
“Are you sure you don’t want to get back on the court?,” Osaka asked in Japanese, “because I don’t think my coach would be happy with me sitting down like this?”
Osaka, 20, explained that her coach helped her raise her level when Williams, 36, took a medical timeout for cramping in the first set. Osaka became upset with Williams after the incident, even going so far as to ask the chair umpire to stop the match, but she told reporters after the win, “She was talking to me as if I didn’t know I’m a professional.”
She explained that when her coach joined her on the court, he told her to “go out there and play aggressively”, and she allowed herself to get “shy,” before eventually replying, “I know,” when she found herself at the loss of being coached. “When I was sitting there with my coach, I was a little bit nervous and the question hit me: ‘Why is that?’,” Osaka said. “Because I’m the number one and he’s my coach. He told me to go out there and do what I need to do.”
Later in the press conference, Osaka approached Williams and offered her congratulations, before composing herself and continuing with her answer. When asked if she thought Williams got what she deserved in the confrontation, Osaka said, “I don’t know.”
“The gist of my answer, I just want to make it clear, is that I want to make sure that we all get back to the court as soon as possible, because we need to do a press conference anyway,” she continued. “I haven’t spoken for a little bit, and I just want to make sure I do what’s best for me.”
Williams is far from the first player in recent times to find herself losing her cool when she feels she’s been disrespected. Last month, Kyle Edmund clapped back at an unapologetic heckler in his match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, after repeatedly apologizing to the man when he won his match. Edmund could not hold back his frustration at the fan, throwing his racket in the crowd and sitting down after a handful of points.
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