By MICHELLE HUANG
Like so many other tennis players, Naomi Osaka longed for the moment when she would finally meet her lifelong role-model. But when she did, it was not to get an autograph; it was for a Miami Open tennis match.
Osaka was definitely surprised when she defeated her childhood idol, Serena Williams, at the Miami Open on Sunday, Mar. 25, with a final score of 6-2.
Having spent most of her tennis career looking up to Williams, Osaka found herself in a tense, promising and admirable position during her match with world-renowned Williams. Despite her win, Osaka did not feel a wave of smug arrogance; rather, she gained more respect for her idol than ever before.
From the beginning, Williams has always had a lasting impact on Osaka. In fact, shortly after the match, Osaka showed her humble appreciation towards her opponent by stating that Williams’ success and passion in tennis was what initially pushed her to begin playing tennis in her early teens.
Osaka’s admiration for Williams did not dwindle at all, even after her schedule became busy as she rose in the worldwide tennis ranks to become a professional player. Even while playing against others, Osaka would ask herself, “What would Serena do?” every time a challenge occurred during a match.
According to Osaka, this mindset greatly helped during several hard matches because it gave her the strength and determination to win games.
From her experience at the match, Osaka saw that it was not only her admiration for Williams’ talent that led her to success, but also Williams’ extreme perseverance and dedication to tennis.
During the match, there were surprisingly few tense moments, as Osaka played three games immediately before in preparation. However, there were at least two times when she found herself turning to her mantra during the game when uncorking two consecutive aces against Williams.
Ironically, the champion Osaka was trying to imitate was right across from her, which meant that Osaka had to rely solely on her own skills to beat Williams.
After several heated moves between the two players, Osaka found herself in the lead by four points in the unusual first-round matchup.
Following the game, Williams skipped a mandatory post-match press conference, which led to a $5000 fine. Though currently unclear, people suspect that Williams skipped this meeting because she felt humiliated that this was the second game she’s played and lost since giving birth to her first child a few months ago. She has also sued the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) for the installation of maternity leave regulations that maintain players’ ranks after returning from leave.
However, Williams should know that Osaka did not see the win merely as an opportunity to one-up Williams; instead, it was a learning opportunity that only increased Osaka’s respect for Williams.
Unlike most other tennis players, Osaka came out of the game gaining not one, but two new things: her win over the number one tennis player in the world and a newfound appreciation for perseverance, passion and setting goals because of how far these traits have brought her.
On a larger scale, the lessons that came out of Osaka’s win can be extended to everyone in the world. Her win sends a positive message to anyone who is striving for success: immense dedication and goal-setting is the driving force to achievement, but do not be afraid to surpass an idol in the process.