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Commentary: Could the changing of the tennis guard rest on Naomi Osaka?

Commentary: Could the changing of the tennis guard rest on Naomi Osaka?
September 20
04:00 2018

By James B. Ewers Jr.

Could the changing of the tennis guard rest on Naomi Osaka?

I watch the Tennis Channel weekly. There are matches on literally from around the world, so someone is always hitting a forehand down the line or serving an ace up the middle.

Back in the day, watching tennis on television was a rarity. I can remember watching the finals of the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. Tony Trabert and Bud Collins were some of the announcers. Most televised matches featured men. I can recall watching players like Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith.

Over time, the tennis landscape changed to include matches that featured women. Billie Jean King and Chris Evert were the women that were on simply because they were in the finals a lot.

The U.S. Open, one of the major tennis tournaments in the world, was recently completed in New York. The other major tournaments are the French Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Of course, even if you are a casual tennis fan, you realized that Serena Williams was playing. She was the 17th seeded player. Sometimes seeds can be misleading. In the case of Serena Williams, it was misleading.

I am a Serena fan and have been for a long time. I am also a Venus fan. The Williams sisters have certainly blazed a trail for women’s tennis. I don’t know if we will ever see a duo like them again. Serena marched with authority all the way to the finals of the U.S. Open. One of my friends said that Serena has the “Mike Tyson” effect. In other words, players are defeated before they walk onto the courts. I believe her court prowess is just too much for most players to handle.

Like most people, I was cheering for Serena. It would have been her 24th major championship. In my opinion, Serena Williams is the greatest of all time (GOAT).

Serena’s opponent in the final was Naomi Osaka, a mixed heritage player from Japan. Her father is Haitian. Naomi Osaka had already beaten Serena at the Miami Open a few months ago. Some critics took Osaka’s victory lightly, saying that Serena wasn’t in shape after giving birth. A lot of people agreed with that assertion. After all, there was some truth in that statement, in my opinion.

The stadium was packed a few Saturdays ago and the television cameras had every angle covered. While farfetched for some, the newspaper headline was “Serena wins U.S. Open for 24th major title.” Amidst all the pre-celebration, we forgot about Naomi Osaka. Many thought the stage was too big and the lights were too bright for her and that Serena would win. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams 6-2, 6-4 in the finals of the U.S. Open. Osaka is the champion. She returned Serena’s serve and hit punishing ground strokes. Her game plan worked to perfection. Some will point to the histrionics that went on near the end as the reason for Serena’s losing. That hiccup can’t take away from Osaka’s display of tennis excellence.

Serena was gracious in defeat, saying that Naomi Osaka played a great match. What does the future hold for each player? I believe Serena wants a 24th major title so she will continue to pursue it. Naomi Osaka? Well, her future is so bright we’ll all need sunglasses.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at ewers.jr56@nullyahoo.com.

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