TOKYO: Japan on Sunday (Sep 9) hailed Naomi Osaka’s stunning upset against the legendary Serena Williams to win the US Open, giving the disaster-hit nation some rare good news after a summer of deadly natural disasters.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe led the congratulations, taking to Twitter to congratulate Osaka after her 6-2, 6-4 win in New York.
“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.
Abe was on his way to the northern island of Hokkaido where a massive earthquake last week sparked landslides that buried houses in a rural town, killing at least 35 people and injuring hundreds of others.
Public broadcaster NHK took a break from its round-the-clock coverage of the disaster to turn to happier news.
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“Osaka wins women’s US Open, becomes first Japanese to win Grand Slam,” blared the broadcaster’s top headline.
Sports Nippon newspaper said Osaka had achieved a “complete victory” against an “irritated Serena who broke her racket”.
The Asahi Shimbun daily said on Twitter it would be printing an extra edition and distributing it in Tokyo.
The final will probably be remembered as much for the 20-year-old’s historic win as a meltdown from Williams who called the chair umpire a “thief”.
Williams’s tantrum overshadowed an outstanding performance from Osaka, who made her second career title a Grand Slam after winning her first at Indian Wells in March.
Osaka has dual Japanese-American citizenship and often replies to questions from Japan’s media in English, apologising for not knowing the appropriate word when she speaks Japanese.
But Japanese fans on social media were happy to claim her as one of their own on the day of her greatest triumph.
“Her interview showed that she is clearly Japanese – regardless of where she was born, where she grew up, the colour of her skin and the language that she speaks,” said one fan on Twitter.
“You are the pride of Japan.”