"When I step on the court, I'm not a Serena fan - I'm just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But when I hugged her at the net, I felt like a little kid again."— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 9, 2018
❤ @Naomi_Osaka_ lets us into her heart...#USOpen pic.twitter.com/GlCigEQUiv
At the end of the US Open final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, the common takeaway was that Osaka's moment—winning her first Grand Slam by beating her hero in the final—was overshadowed by drama. Williams got three code violations, two of which Williams disagreed with.
Serena trying to comfort Naomi and telling the crowd not to boo anymore has me all in my feelings. This has all been surreal. pic.twitter.com/Q85memJKDa— Chad (@CCSMOOTH13) September 8, 2018
But as the dust settles, Osaka, Williams and those who watched are all starting to parse Osaka's achievement from the controversy that had transpired.
"I just feel like I had a lot of emotions, so I had to kind of categorize what was which emotion," Osaka said when asked about the exceptionally awkward trophy ceremony.
“Nothing is more beautiful than a smile that has struggled through tears.” We thank our 2018 women’s champion for her strength and sincerity on and off the court. #USOpen __ ???? @iamcesarin #womenwhoinspire #naomiosaka #Tennis #wta #usopen50 #grandslam #champion #emotional
She had no problem compartmentalizing Williams' presence during the match itself, as evidenced by her stunning 6-2, 6-4 win. And in press, Osaka had was unfazed in breaking down how she pulled it off.
But she's still working toward coming to terms with how Saturday's win played out in comparison with the version of it she'd undoubtedly been dreaming of for a long time.
"When I was growing up, I did a whole report on her in third grade," Osaka said. "I colored it and everything. I said, 'I want to be like her.'"
"When I step onto the court, I feel like a different person, right? I'm not a Serena fan. I'm just a tennis player playing another tennis player. But then when I hugged her at the net," she said, "I felt like a little kid again."
Williams, meanwhile, though she still clearly feels wronged, isn't deluded about the outcome.
"She played an amazing match. She deserved credit. She deserved to win," Williams said. "At the end of the day, that's what it was."
As crazy and life-changing as the events of the final were, they weren't enough to derail Osaka's routine of playing as much Overwatch as she does tennis.
Asked how she'll celebrate her first Grand Slam title, Osaka said, "Maybe I'll play video games. I don't know."