5 Things You Need To Know About Naomi Osaka
She's often compared to Serena William and, to be fair, for obvious reasons. However, after having come into the spotlight of the Women's Tennis Association at the age of 16, this now 21-year-old world's number one tennis player is swiftly proving that she's not the new Serena; she's Naomi Osaka. Here are five things to know about the "hafu" tennis champ and also five reasons to be an absolute fan.
1/5A Teenage Sports Superstar
Most of us probably best remember Naomi Osaka as the female Grand Slam winner of last year’s US Open who defeated 23-time titleholder Serena William in what became a controversial and highly talked about finale. To the tennis community, however, Naomi’s first big break was when she was just 16 and defeated former US Open champ Samatha Stosur at the 2014 Stanford Classic. It was her first step into the WTA. Two years later at 18, she competed in the Pan Pacific Open in Japan and made the WTA’s top 50 rankings, becoming the WTA Newcomer of the Year.
2/5Becoming The World's Number 1
At this year’s Australian Open, Naomi was one of 11 players contending for the title of world’s number one. Making it to the finals against Petra Kvitova, Naomi ended up taking home trophy, becoming not just the world’s number one, but the first woman to win consecutive Grand Slam singles since Serena Williams in 2015 and the first Asian player to be ranked number one in the world in singles.
When it comes to Naomi’s playing style, she’s said to be an aggressive baseline player, controlling the game from the back of the court. To have the upper hand at this, you have to have raw power. It’s no exaggeration that Naomi’s forehand and serve game is amongst the strongest in the world. When she was 16, she was already hitting 160km/h forehands, while her serve has been measured up to 200km/hr, putting her in the world’s top 10 fastest servers.
4/5A Multicultural Background
Naomi is Haitian-Japanese and a holder of Japanese and American citizenships. She was born in Osaka, Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father in 1997 and moved to the US with her family three years later where she soon after started training in tennis with her older sister Mari. When Naomi started to become known worldwide in the last couple of years, the media seemed overly fixated on her multicultural background, often testing Naomi on her “Japanese-ness” instead of discussing her achievements on the court. Naomi has nevertheless chosen to represent Japan as an athlete and, whether intentional or not, has been redefining what it means to be an athlete and what it means to be Japanese today.
Just watch this brilliant Nike ad, in which Osaka tells us point-blank her game-play for life:
I don't really know what feeling Japanese or Haitian or American is supposed to feel like. I just feel like me.
— Naomi Osaka
5/5A Class Act
Despite her prowess on the court and all her world titles by now, Naomi is incredibly shy and humble in person. She’s never fully prepared to give victory speeches and is known for second-to-none sportsmanship, treating every one of her opponents with respect even under tough circumstances. At the same time, she is very honest and has a dry sense of humour—which may be why The Office is her favourite TV show.
See also: 5 Facts About Princess Mako