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Naomi Osaka's first U.S. Open title on Saturday was surreal in multiple ways for the rising tennis star.
She defeated the player she grew up idolizing, Serena Williams, in a match featuring a controversial conflict between Williams and a chair umpire, and then Osaka essentially apologized for winning after the match.
Following her 6-2, 6-4 victory for her first Grand Slam title, Osaka told ESPN in the post-match interview that "I know everyone was cheering for (Williams) and I'm sorry it had to end like this."
Williams, who was seeking a record-tying 24th career Grand Slam title, urged the crowd to stop booing and celebrate Osaka's victory in an emotional post-match ceremony.
"I don’t know, I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there,'' Osaka told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Monday morning. "I know that the ending wasn’t how people wanted it to be.
"I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match. I don’t know, I just felt very emotional, and I felt like I had to apologize."
The match ended in booing from fans and tears from both players after a controversial argument that began when Williams was penalized by chair umpire Carlos Ramos for what he said was receiving signals from her coach in the stands, which is against the rules.
Williams also received an automatic penalty for smashing her racket in frustration, and then Ramos took the rare step of docking her a game for verbal abuse when she disputed the earlier ruling and called Ramos a "thief" and a "liar."
She later accused Ramos of sexism.
“There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?" she said. "That is not right.”
"I didn't really know what was going on because I went to the back and I had my back turned,'' Osaka said. "Then before I knew it, he was saying there was a game penalty, so I was a little bit confused throughout the whole thing."
The crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens then erupted in boos, which Osaka initially thought might have been directed at her instead of Ramos.
"I felt a little bit sad because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me, or if it wasn't the outcome that they wanted,'' Osaka said. "And then I also could sympathize because I've been a fan of Serena my whole life, and I knew how badly the crowd wanted her to win. I don't know, I was just really emotional."
Osaka did not see the specifics involving the controversy with Williams in the whirlwind following her victory.
"I can’t really form an opinion right now,'' she said. "For sure I want to watch everything and I want to know what happened because this was sort of one of the biggest things that happened to me."
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