Naomi Osaka's US Open victory also marks another landmark -- 26 years since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the match against Steffi Graf in 1994, despite losing the first set.
Naomi Osaka defeated Victoria Azarenka on September 12 to win her second US Open championship and third Grand Slam title overall. She also broke Azarenka’s 11-match winning streak, which included a victory over 23 Grand Slams winner Serena Williams.
While Azarenka started out in the lead, Osaka lifted her game ending with 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. "For me, I just thought it would be very embarrassing to lose this in an under an hour,” Osaka told the Associated Press.
Osaka’s victory also marks another landmark – 26 years since Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the match against Steffi Graf in 1994, despite losing the first set.
"I wasn't really thinking about winning. I was just thinking about competing. Somehow, I ended up with the trophy,” Osaka added.
She made her Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at the Australian Open in 2016, beating Elina Svitolina in the second round before losing to former champion Azarenka. Osaka went on to crack the world's top 100 ranking for the first time in April 2016 and the top 50 later in the year.
Osaka won her first WTA title in March 2018, and beat long-time idol Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final to claim her first Grand Slam title – finishing fifth ranked in the world.
Of joint Japanese and Haitian lineage and born in Japan before her family moved to the United States when she was three, now 22-year-old Osaka said she also had another motive behind her win – calling attention to racial injustice. "The point is to make people start talking. I wanted more people to see (more) names,” she explained.
To meet her goal Osaka came to the match wearing a mask with the name of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old black boy killed by police in Ohio in 2014 – the seventh such mask she has used during the tournament. The masks displayed names of other victims – Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Elijah McClain and Ahmaud Arbery.
This is not her first contribution to bring attention to social issues. In August, Osaka refused to participate in the Western and Southern Open semi-final, after 29-year-old African American man Jacob Blake, was shot and seriously injured by a police officer in Wisconsin, US. She did so despite the tournament calling a full-day break to show solidarity.
Held despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament final did not have fans in attendance at the hard court major this year.(With inputs from AP, Reuters)