Japan on Sunday hailed Naomi Osaka’s stunning upset against Serena Williams to win the US Open, giving the nation some rare good news after a summer of deadly natural disasters.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the praise, taking to Twitter to congratulate Osaka after her daring 6-2, 6-4 win in New York late Saturday.
“Congratulations on your victory at the US Open. The first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title. Thank you for giving energy and inspiration to the whole of Japan,” the premier tweeted.
Osaka’s grandfather Tetsuo Osaka, 73, lives in Hokkaido where an earthquake occurred and said he wept watching his granddaughter on television.
“It still hasn’t sunk in for me yet. The moment she won, my wife and I rejoiced together. I was so happy, I cried,” he told public broadcaster NHK.
“I hope she stays healthy and continues her good work. I also hope she wins at the Tokyo Olympics (in 2020),” he said.
Fellow tennis star Kei Nishikori flooded Twitter with emojis of trophies, thumbs up and Japanese flags, followed by a simple tweet of “proud” alongside a Japanese flag.
And Tsuyoshi Fukui, a former top Japanese player and now a senior official at the Japanese Tennis Association, said Osaka’s performance would help to cheer the country up after typhoons, floods and earthquakes dominated the headlines this summer.
“Osaka’s “tenacious and patient performance … must have been a great show of encouragement to those Japanese people who saw damage from such things as typhoons and earthquakes,” Fukui told Japanese media.
Sports Nippon newspaper said Osaka had achieved a “complete victory” against an “irritated Serena who broke her racket”.
Williams’s tantrum threatened to overshadow an outstanding performance from Osaka, who made her second career title a Grand Slam after winning her first at Indian Wells in March.
But the charismatic 20-year-old – who has dual Japanese-American citizenship – already has her eyes on her next goal…to win her next tournament back home in Tokyo.
And understandably, Japanese fans on social media can’t have enough of the lady who has captured the imagination of a nation.
“You are the pride of Japan,” one fan wrote on Twitter.