Naomi Osaka came close to upsetting Serena Williams for the junior title at the French Open, but got upset just before she was due to arrive at Roland Garros. She was not able to make it out of first qualifying but still managed to draw a large crowd as a Venus Williams lookalike took her place. The 16-year-old assured reporters there was nothing sinister behind her withdrawal. “I just didn’t feel comfortable. It’s the first time I’ve ever withdrawn from a grand slam,” she told the Associated Press.
She said her mother, USTA chief executive Katrina Adams, had been at Roland Garros when she came to the decision that she should not play. “I think it’s just the time, especially the number of days. I didn’t want to come here and play and then immediately leave.”
The teenager, however, didn’t offer details of what she did “wrong” and sounded surprised when asked why there was such a backlash on social media after her withdrawal. “I didn’t really expect that,” she said. “I always felt good here. But I don’t think anything negative happened at the French Open, just something positive. I just didn’t feel comfortable.” She spoke of the discussions she had about withdrawing with her father and others.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done different,” she said. “I feel like in order to play the French Open, I have to get ready.”
The teenager, however, was surprisingly harsh on herself. “Sometimes you need to make these decisions for yourself,” she said. “I think there’s things that I did wrong. But I didn’t want to bring the negative attention to the tournament.” She emphasized that she had no ill feelings toward Serena Williams and pointed out that she played a set with Williams when she was a junior. The teenagers have been, of course, on opposite sides of the net in each of the last two Wimbledon finals. Osaka was, however, playing at the under-18 level then.
The player, speaking through a translator, said Serena was the most important person in her life and that she admired her everything she did, even though she lost to her in the Wimbledon final last year.
Read the full story at the Associated Press.
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