The disputed penalties against Serena Williams at the US Open women’s singles final shouldn’t take away from Naomi Osaka’s Grand Slam performance.
The woman who lost the most at the US Open was actually the one who won it.
Naomi Osaka’s first Grand Slam should have been the high point in the 20-year-old’s athletic career so far — not only in besting Serena Williams, whom she’s idolized since childhood, but also in making history as the first Japanese player to ever win a major singles title.
Instead, her victory has been overshadowed by an umpire hitting Williams with three controversial penalties, including one that cost a game, which means the public will forever debate whether Williams could have won her 24th Grand Slam title without his interference and the double standards handicapping women on and off the court. Most headlines have focused on the championship’s loser rather than its winner.
“I think almost anyone who watched the match would agree that (Osaka) fairly won the match,” Teri Thompson, the former New York Daily News sports editor and contributor to “Baseball Cop: The Dark Side of America’s National Pastime,” told Moneyish. “She was the better player, the steadier player, and probably would have won the match against the greatest woman’s player ever anyway. But on the positive side, she is now a voice in a conversation that definitely needs to be heard about the double standard between men and women.”
Yet the crowd booed during Osaka’s trophy ceremony on Saturday, bringing her to tears in her moment of triumph — although in a show of sportsmanship, Williams, 36, put her arm around the winner and called on spectators to cheer Osaka’s first Grand Slam. Osaka even apologized to the crowd, and told the “Today” show on Monday that, “I felt a little bit sad, because I wasn’t really sure if they were booing at me, or if it wasn’t the outcome that they wanted.”
But Osaka has nothing to apologize for, and everything to be proud of. Many sports analysts and the Women’s Tennis Association agree that she out-aced Williams six to three; hit the fastest serve of the match (119 miles-per-hour to Williams’ 118); landed more of her returns (69% for Osaka versus 59% for Williams); and more.
Lucio Buffalmano, a social skills coach in Germany and social psychology writer at ThePowerMoves.com, suffered a similar success that was underscored by an upset. The 34-year-old is a member of the Toastmasters international public speaking organization, which hosts speech-giving and presentation contests. He won one this spring — but even though he meticulously prepared by practicing and even looking at photos of the stage he’d be speaking on to visualize himself winning, his first-place prize was overshadowed when his top competitor (and last year’s champ) was disqualified.
“You can imagine most of the spotlight was on that,” he told Moneyish. “Some people love fresh new blood while some others get defensive.” People were congratulating him with comments like, “It was a real pity so-and-so got disqualified. Who knows otherwise …” (He has asked to keep the competitor anonymous.)
“However, here is how I take it: there are no asterisks. The award sits on my desk. My name is on the record. And I couldn’t have been happier (not for his troubles, but for my win),” he said, adding that Osaka should view her Grand Slam the same. “It’s her name that will stay on the books.”
Yet too many people talk themselves into believing that they “only” got something because someone else “missed” it — rather than recognizing that their hustle and hard work is what put them in the position to score that W in the first place. And woman have a harder time taking credit for their accomplishments: a 2013 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that females give more credit to their male colleagues, and take less for themselves.
Dr. Colleen Hacker, a mental skills coach who has consulted for the USA women’s hockey team (which just won gold in a shootout against Canada in the PyeongChang Olympics) and for the 1999 World Cup-winning USA women’s soccer team, told Moneyish that Osaka and the rest of us need to own our wins.
“Look at how fit Naomi was. Look at how she matched power to power, and competitive tactics with competitive tactics, and went toe-to-toe with what most would agree is one of the greatest athletes of all time. She answered every challenge that was placed in front of her,” said Dr. Hacker, who is also a national board member for the Positive Coaching Alliance. “She doesn’t need cheerleaders. This is a time to remind herself of what she’s done; the actions, facts and behaviors that led to the outcome that she, in fact, earned.”
So if a colleague gets fired or laid off, and you are raised to their position, don’t relegate your promotion to being in the right place at the right time, or from profiting off of someone else’s mistakes. “There’s a reason they picked you,” said Dr. Hacker. “Look for factual evidence and metrics that back up why you have succeeded: what did you do well at your job, and focus on those.” Maybe you clocked the most hours, or made the most sales.
If someone insinuates that you didn’t really earn your spot or your new title — or they outright ask if you think you would have still won if not for some controversy or other — reframe it and redirect it. For example, “I don’t know if I got this promotion because John screwed up, but I do know that I worked hard for this. I feel like I’ve earned it. I’m excited to prove my value.”
You also need to accept what’s outside of your control — such as who is refereeing your match, or what financial decisions the C-suite at your company is making — and instead focus on your own performance. “When I work in the NFL, the MLB, USA Hockey, I literally draw a ‘circle of control’ and ask what you have control over (your effort, your intensity, how you respond to errors) and put everything else outside,” Dr. Hacker said. “Can you control the weather? No. Can you control who the crowd is cheering for? No. Can you control who the official is going to be? No.”
So there’s been a lot going on but I just want to say, I was grateful to have the opportunity to play on that stage yesterday. Thank you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/utiEKJF8NN
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) September 9, 2018
And she noted that even during that Grand Slam match, when Williams was arguing with the umpire, Osaka was the perfect example of focusing on what she could control — her own game performance — and tuning out what was happening between Williams and the ump, which was out of her hands.
“She physically turned away from it … and by her own admission, she didn’t even know what was being said. She was redirecting her focus on her game plan and her strategy, and she played the game exceptionally well,” said Dr. Hacker. “To show that wisdom and discipline and maturity at any age is remarkable; to do so at 20, in your first Grand Slam title match … we should be bowing down.”
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