U.S. Open Winner Naomi Osaka Says She 'Felt She Had to Apologize' After Beating Serena Williams

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Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka
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U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka appeared on the Today show on Monday, and broke her silence on the dramatic end to the final match between her and Serena Williams.

Williams lost to Japan's Osaka on Saturday, but the game was interrupted by several issues between Williams and tournament officials, as umpire Carlos Ramos handed Williams three penalties throughout the match. Williams emotionally talked about the penalties being sexist, and she was later fined $17,000 for the violations -- $4,000 for a coaching violation, $3,000 for slamming her racket and $10,000 for “verbal abuse.”

On Monday, Osaka said she has idolized Williams growing up, even writing an essay about her in the third grade when asked to describe someone she admired. The 20-year-old tennis pro said she was confused about the penalties throughout the game since her back was turned as the drama went down. 

"I was a little confused throughout the whole thing," she admits.

Later, as the crowd boo'ed during the closing ceremony, Osaka wept under her visor as 36-year-old Williams comforted her.

Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka
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"I felt a little bit sad because I wasn't really sure if they were booing at me or because it wasn't the outcome they wanted," she says of her thoughts at the moment. "And 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, so, I don't know, I was just really emotional up there."

Osaka later cheered up thanks to Williams giving her words of encouragement as she put her arm around her, but admits she still felt a little guilty over the win.

Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka
Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

"I just felt like everyone was sort of unhappy up there and I know it wasn't the ending people wanted it to be, and I know that in my dreams I won, like, a very tough competitive match but I don't know," she says. "I just felt very emotional and I felt like I had to apologize."

On Saturday, Williams was also left in tears, but showed her support for Osaka and asked the crowd to stop booing.

“I don’t want to do questions. I just want to tell you guys, she played well," she said following her loss. "And this is her first Grand Slam… I know you guys were here rooting, and I was rooting too. But let’s make this the best moment we can, and we’ll get through it. Let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due. Let’s not boo anymore. We’re gonna get through this, and let’s be positive. So congratulations, Naomi! No more booing.”

In January, Williams opened up about her postpartum battle after giving birth to daughter Alexis. Watch the video below for more:

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