Naomi Osaka attributed her composure during a wild first grand slam final partly to her sister’s taste in bakery products.
The 20-year-old became Japan’s first grand slam singles champion after a meltdown from Serena Williams saw her penalised a game in a 6-2 6-4 US Open victory for Osaka.
While Williams yelled at umpire Carlos Ramos for a series of code violations, and protested to tournament referee Brian Earley and grand slam supervisor Donna Kelso, Osaka kept her head down and focused completely on the next point.
She did not waver serving either for the first set or the match and time and again drew the error from Williams, who was appearing in her 31st slam final, rather than the other way around.
Osaka revealed she was not quite coolness personified, though, saying: “I woke up and I was sweating. I was so nervous. My heart was racing the entire day. I think that wasn’t good for my health.
“I couldn’t eat anything, I felt like I was going to throw up. I was just so stressed and I kept calling my sister, my poor sister. She was telling me to think of it as just another match and then I would yell at her, ‘Are you crazy? This is a grand slam final.’
“Since she’s in Paris, she was showing me these random croissants and baguettes to try to take my mind off of it, and it kind of worked.”
Osaka’s sister Mari is also a tennis player and they were coached by their father after he decided to try to copy Richard Williams’ remarkable success with his daughters.
Mari has not yet had the same rise as her younger sister and is currently playing lower-tier events after a series of injuries.
Osaka’s father, Leonard Francois, gets so nervous he cannot watch his daughter in action, but she credits him for her big-match mentality.
She said: “Ever since I was little he’s always been telling me these wise words but I’ve never really wanted to listen. I think that as I grew up I sort of appreciated what he was saying more. It’s the most cliched things you could think of, always things that make you go ‘Ugh’.”
Osaka grew up idolising Williams – and insisted what happened on Saturday would not change that, even though the shine was certainly taken off her big moment.
With this victory and the manner of it, she has positioned herself as the next big hope to succeed Williams as the dominant force in women’s tennis.
She will break into the top 10 for the first time and could one day find herself in the position of facing an up-and-comer who wrote a school project about how they wanted to be like her, as she did for Williams.
“I would tell them, ‘Don’t do it’,” she said with a laugh at the idea of being someone’s idol.
“It’s a little bit crazy. Growing up and watching people you idolise, you always dream that one day you’ll be in that position.
“So to be in that position right now, I feel like I’m a big kid that doesn’t really understand how the world works. Because mainly I’ve just played tennis my whole life and I haven’t really thought much of anything else.
“I feel like it’s a responsibility but I’m also really glad to have that responsibility.”
One thing that is certain is that Osaka’s stock around the world, but particularly in Japan, will skyrocket.
She will head to Tokyo from New York ahead of the Pan Pacific Open, beginning on September 17, and it is likely to be some homecoming for the player born in Japan but raised in the United States.
Osaka’s current clothing contract with adidas runs out at the end of the year and she is now perfectly positioned to secure a multi-million-dollar deal, along with many other endorsements.
Her agent Stuart Duguid said: “I don’t think Naomi knows what’s coming but I have a fair idea.”