Naomi Osaka told US Open title opponent Serena Williams “I love you” just moments after she became the first Japanese woman to reach a Grand Slam final.
The 20-year-old breakout star of the tournament swept into the record books and today’s championship match against the 23-time major winner with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Madison Keys, the runner-up in 2017.
When asked on court what she told herself as she served for the match, she said: “Don’t double fault”.
“Why,” asked the interviewer. “Serena,” replied the charismatic Osaka.
“I love you, Serena,” she added before adding “I love you, mom; I love everybody”.
Osaka, the 20th seed, has met and defeated Williams once — at Miami in March.
That win came just a week after she had lifted her first top-level trophy at the prestigious Indian Wells event in California.
Saturday will be the fulfilment of Osaka’s childhood dream of facing Williams in a Grand Slam final.
“It still feels a little bit, like, surreal. Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam,” she said.