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Osaka’s winning of U.S. Open title fulfills dream of Japan’s tennis world

The Yomiuri ShimbunA Japanese player has finally won one of the greatest tennis tournaments. It was a historic and outstanding achievement.

Naomi Osaka won the women’s singles title at the U.S. Open.

This is the first time for a Japanese player, male or female, to become a Grand Slam singles champion. Osaka has overcome the challenges that Japanese players, such as Kazuko Sawamatsu and Kimiko Date, repeatedly yet unsuccessfully took on. Heartfelt applause should be offered to Osaka.

Osaka’s dream of playing her idol, the American player Serena Williams, in the U.S. Open final has become a reality. With her characteristic, powerful serve and stable shots, Osaka dominated the match, holding even former world No. 1 Serena at bay. The way Osaka played was splendid.

It was Osaka’s strong mental power of never losing her composure that deserves special mention. Serena, on the back foot, and apparently out of frustration, smashed her racket and uttered abusive words at the chair umpire. Meanwhile, boos came from the spectators, expressing the sentiment that “It is unfair for Serena.”

Even amid an extraordinary atmosphere, however, Osaka didn’t lose her concentration. She appears to have been able to display her ability — even in a completely hostile atmosphere — because she was confident in her play, which has improved steadily.

In the post-match ceremony, Osaka said to Serena: “I’m really grateful I was able to play with you. Thank you,” and bowed her thanks to Serena. It was Osaka’s magnificent demeanor that has changed spectators’ boos into applause.

Japan’s competitiveness up

The winners of the Grand Slam women’s singles titles this year were all different players. They were also different last year, too. This shows the current state of affairs in the women’s tennis world that there is no absolute queen.

Osaka, aged 20, still has growth potential. Depending on how she trains herself in the years ahead, it might not be a mere fantasy for her to continue standing as the top tennis player in the world.

Osaka, who was born in Osaka, went to the United States when she was very young. Her father came from Haiti and her mother is Japanese. Her grandfather, who lives in Nemuro, Hokkaido, expressed his joy, saying, “I want her to make a spectacular showing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, too.”

Osaka’s winning the championship should be a great encouragement for people in Hokkaido, hit by a recent earthquake.

As there has been a succession of scandals in Japan’s sporting world, Osaka’s having brought her dream to fruition has been accompanied by an especially exhilarating feeling. Osaka’s winning the championship also must have given impetus to other Japanese tennis players, including Kei Nishikori, who finished second in the 2014 U.S. Open.

Moved by Osaka’s play, there are children who will start holding a racket, becoming keen on practicing. From among such children, those who will lead the next generation of tennis players will appear.

Spectacular showings by Japanese athletes on the world stage — and not only in tennis — are essential for the development of competitive sports.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 11, 2018)Speech



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