Four-time grand slam champion and former world no. 1 Naomi Osaka has recently announced her new collaboration. The 24-year-old will join hands with Victoria’s Secret, for their VS Collective initiative. This venture is an effort by the retail giant to showcase diversity and inclusion. Naomi Osaka is the latest to join the campaign, which includes high-profile names like Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Eileen Gu.
Osaka’s first role as an ambassador of the VS Collective was to take part in their podcast called VS Voices. She took this opportunity to speak about the double standards that women, especially women of colour face. This was in reference to the US Open 2018 debacle.
The US Open 2018 Controversy
Naomi Osaka faced 23-time grand slam champion, Serena Williams, in the finals of the US Open 2018. Osaka had earlier stated that she considered Williams her childhood hero, and in this epic battle, lifted her first grand slam trophy by defeating her idol in straight sets. By so doing, Osaka became the first Japanese woman to win a grand slam.
However, despite a swift two-set bout, the match was not all that smooth. After losing two games to Osaka in the second set, Williams was seen getting a thumbs-up from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou. The chair-umpire Carlos Ramos gave Serena a code violation for this. To this, Williams told Ramos “If he gives me a thumbs-up, he is telling me to come on. We don’t have any code and I know you don’t know that, and [I] understand why you may have thought that that was coaching, but it is not. I don’t cheat to win; I would rather lose. I am just letting you know.”
This was not the end of the story, and the on-court tension escalated after Ramos handed Serena Williams a second violation when she smashed her racquet in frustration after losing a point. This agitated the American, who demanded that Ramos apologize. After repeated demands, the umpire handed her a third code violation for verbal abuse. Serena angrily responded, calling him a thief. “You stole a point from me,” she said. “You’re a thief, too.”
Serena Williams went on to lose the match, and after she gave a congratulatory hug to Naomi Osaka, the crowd started booing. This was perhaps a show of frustration from the largely American fanbase who had hoped that Serena would win a record 24th slam. The ensuing chaos led Osaka to break down and cry after having won her first major.
This incident was widely reported, and Serena Williams was criticised by everyone. Most people called her unprofessional, and a sore loser who could not be gracious to a new champion.
Naomi Osaka on the 2018 US Open Final
When questioned about the Williams debacle, Naomi Osaka responded by calling it a case of double standards. Osaka said “Definitely if a male player did that it wouldn’t have been so broadcasted. There have actually been male players that have done far worse, like literally last year and this year, and they don’t get news reports at all. So, I’m not sure if it’s because Serena is Serena, or people just wanted to write negative things.
I can’t say that if we were both male players the outcome would have been the same way. But I can say that people are very interested in Serena and whatever she does is going to get attention. And it was just unfortunate that it had to be that moment that caught a lot of people’s interest”.