The 24-year-old athlete spoke about Williams at a press conference on Saturday ahead of the US Open. During the discussion, Osaka cited the 23-time Grand Slam champion’s legacy in the tennis world and how she ultimately “changed the sport.”
“She’s introduced people that have never heard of tennis into the sport. I think I’m a product of what she’s done,” Osaka said, via ESPN. “I wouldn’t be here without Serena, Venus, her whole family. I’m, like, very thankful to her. I also was trying to figure out how to sum it into words. I honestly think that she’s, like, the biggest force in the sport.”
Osaka, who has won three out of the five matches that she’s played against Williams, then spoke about the 40-year-old’s retirement plan. In an essay published in Vogue earlier this month, Williams said that she will be moving “away from tennis” and focusing on her family. Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, are currently raising their four-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia.
Regarding how she reacted when the essay was published, Osaka said: “I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, this is what devastation must feel like.’ Yeah, it really is an honour just to keep watching her play.”
Still, Osaka addressed how excited she is to see what Williams will do next after her retirement and as she continues on her “journey”.
“There’s definitely been a lot of barriers that I’m sure she had to fight to break down. We can now easily go through that because of her,” she said. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of things that she’s done that I don’t know about. But it will be interesting to see.”
“I know she didn’t call it a retirement, she called it like an evolution which I think is really cool,” she continued. “I feel like the term ‘retirement’ kind of means an end to something. But since she says ‘evolution.’ it means like a continuing journey.”
On Monday night, Williams made it to the second round of the US Open with a set of wins over Danka Kovinic in the first match of her farewell tour. Osaka played her first match in this year’s tournament on Tuesday night and was defeated by Danielle Collins.