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Naomi Osaka isn’t Serena Williams’ rival – she’s her legacy



There is a poignancy in the current moment in women’s tennis. Naomi Osaka learned from the best, and then ended another one of Serena Williams’ evanescent chances to tie Margaret Court’s 24 record Grand Slam singles titles.

Osaka’s debut Slam victory at the 2018 U.S. Open did the same thing. Williams was just in her third Slam back on tour after the birth of her daughter, Olympia. The record seemed well within reach. And now? Well.



Osaka’s rise is thanks to excellence and deconstruction. But always, always a genuine respect. It is always difficult to see a great player, if not the greatest ever, lose a few miles off her fastball.


But Williams can look across the net to Osaka and see a victor that is part of her own impressive legacy, and not many truly great athletes can say that.


Osaka took Williams out in two sets at the Australian Open in a semifinal on Wednesday. Williams had three dominant games, and then it was clear her footwork wasn’t quick enough to reach Osaka’s powerful strokes.


Yet there is a young woman of color who picked up a racket after idolizing Serena, who trained to a professional level after studying Williams, and who spoke out against injustice last summer after following Williams’ words on race and equality.

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