Naomi OsakaJapanese Tennis Player
Naomi Osaka is a Japanese tennis player. By claiming victory at the US Open in September 2018, she became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
• Date of birth: 16 October 1997
• Age: 24 years old
• Place of birth: Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan
• Residence: Beverly Hills, California, USA
• Nationality: Japanese
• Height: 180cm / 5ft 11ins
• Plays: Right-handed
• Turned Pro: 2013
• Prize Money: US$ 20,076,456
• Net Worth: US$ 60,000,000 (Forbes)
Born in Japan in October 1997, Osaka moved to the United States with her family when she was three years old.
She began playing tennis when she was three years old and honed her skills alongside her sister Mari. The pair were both initially coached by their father Leonard, who himself had little experience of playing tennis.
Osaka qualified for her first WTA Tour main draw match when she was just 16 years old.
She won her first Grand Slam title in September 2018 at the US Open aged 20 and reached number one in the WTA rankings in January 2019.
So, how much do you know about Osaka’s journey to tennis stardom and her life away from the court? This is her story.
Early Life, Parents And Upbringing
Osaka was born on 16 October 1997 in Chuo Ward, Osaka, Japan, to parents Leonard Maxime Francois and Tamaki Osaka. Leonard, who is from Haiti, met Tamaki, who is Japanese, when he was visiting Hokkaido as a college student in the 1990s.
Osaka and her older sister Mari were given their mother’s surname for practical reasons while living in Japan.
When she was three years old, Osaka moved from Japan to Long Island in New York with her family to live with her father’s parents.
“My dad’s Haitian, so I grew up in a Haitian household in New York. I lived with my grandma,” Osaka said in 2018. “And my mom’s Japanese and I grew up with the Japanese culture too, and if you’re saying American, I guess because I lived in America, I also have that too.”
Soon after her family arrived in the United States, her father Leonard began hitting tennis balls with Osaka and her sister Mari. Despite having played little tennis himself, Leonard had become inspired after watching up-and-coming American tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, who were then 18 and 17, team up to win the women’s doubles title at the French Open in 1999.
Leonard revealed that he created a “blueprint” to coach his daughters to success after examining the way Richard Williams had worked with Venus and Serena. “The blueprint was already there,” Francois said in 2018. “I just had to follow it.”
In 2006, her family moved to Florida so that they could focus on tennis full-time. The Osaka sisters spent most of their days training on the Pembroke Pines public courts and were home-schooled in the evening.
Osaka revealed that her mother played a huge role in helping to motivate her after seeing the sacrifices she had made for her and her sister.
“Growing up, I saw my mother work incredibly hard to support me and my passion for play,” Osaka said in May 2021. “She always put others first and encouraged me to embrace my diversity. Every role model I’ve had has inspired me to dream big.”
When she was 15 years old, Osaka began working with Patrick Tauma at the ISP Academy, and in 2014, she moved to the Harold Solomon Tennis Academy.
Despite having lived in the US for most of her life, Osaka and her parents decided that she and her sister would represent Japan. “We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age,” her mother Tamaki said. “She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture. Quite simply, Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese so that was our only rationale.”
Osaka herself has also spoken multiple times about her pride at her Japanese and Haitian heritage. “Japanese culture? I love everything about it,” said Osaka in 2018. “And Haiti, if you’ve ever met a Haitian person, they are really positive, and literally if you’re friends with them, then they will do anything for you. That’s something that is a really good trait, and I’m really happy that my grandparents and my dad’s side of the family is like that.”
Osaka played the first events of her career in 2012 on the ITF Circuit in the United States. Her best result of the 2012 season came at the ITF $10K event in Amelia Island, where she lost to her sister in the semi-finals.
In 2013, she took part in her first WTA qualifying rounds at Quebec City and Tokyo.
It was in 2014 that Osaka played her first WTA Tour main draw matches, first as a qualifier at Stanford, where she reached the second round after defeating Samantha Stosur, and then as a wild card at the Japan Women’s Open in Osaka.
In 2015, she was beaten in the qualifying tournaments of both Wimbledon and the US Open but continued her rise up the rankings, ending the year as the world number 144.
For Osaka, 2016 was something of a breakthrough year. She reached the third rounds of the Australian Open, the French Open and US Open. Aged 18, she also reached her first WTA final at the Premier level Pan Pacific Open, where she ended up losing in straight sets to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki.
It was in 2018 that Osaka won her first WTA title at Indian Wells, beating Daria Kasatkina in the final and becoming the youngest player to win the tournament in 10 years.
After having reached the Australian Open fourth round at the start of 2018, she also advanced to the third round at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
Osaka lost in the third round of the Toyko 2020 Olympics to eventual finalist and silver medalist Marketa Vondrousova.
Grand Slam Success
Osaka tasted Grand Slam glory for the first time in September 2018 at the US Open in New York as she won her second title of the year.
She only dropped one set en route to the title and beat Serena Williams, then 36, 6-2 6-4 in the final. “It was always my dream to play Serena in the US Open finals so I am really glad I was able to do that,” Osaka said after her victory.
Her victory at Flushing Meadows meant that she had become the first Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam singles title.
Osaka followed up her US Open triumph by winning the next Grand Slam title on offer at the 2019 Australian Open, beating Petra Kvitova in the final in Melbourne.
Her third Grand Slam success didn’t come until the latter part of 2020, when she fought back from a set down to beat Victoria Azarenka 1-6 6-3 6-3 in the final in New York.
“I don’t want to play you in any more finals, I didn’t really enjoy that, it was a really tough match for me,” Osaka jokingly told Azarenka after the match. “It was really inspiring for me because I used to watch you play here when I was younger. I learned a lot, so thank you.”
Osaka won her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open when she beat American Jennifer Brady 6-4 6-3 in the final in Melbourne.
And asked if she could reach double figures in Grand Slam titles after the match, Osaka replied: “I’m taking it in sections. Right now, I’m trying to go for five. After five I would think about maybe dividing the 10, so maybe seven or eight.
“I like to take things not big picture. I know that the people that I’m playing against are the best players in the world and, if my time comes to win another Grand Slam, it will come.”
Life Away From The Court
Osaka’s hobbies away from tennis include fashion, gaming and photography.
She has signed sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Citizen, Nissan and more.
Osaka has been open about her struggles with depression. At the 2021 French Open, Osaka was fined $15,000 by the tournament organisers after saying she would skip media interviews at the French Open. She later withdrew from the tournament to focus on her mental health.
“I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players, and my own well-being is that I withdraw so that everyone can get back to focusing on the tennis going on in Paris,” Osaka wrote a statement on Instagram in May 2021. “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.”
Net Worth And Prize Money
As of October 2021, Osaka had secured $20,076,456 in prize money from playing tennis.
In May 2020, Forbes reported that Osaka had become the highest-paid female athlete ever, topping Serena Williams. Forbes estimated that she had racked up $37m in earnings from prize money and endorsements in the previous 12 months.
According to Forbes, Osaka’s total net worth stood at around $60m in 2021.
What Have Others Said?
Serena Williams spoke about Osaka after her US Open final defeat in 2018.
“I feel like she was really, really consistent. I think her game is always super consistent. I felt like she played really well. She made a lot of shots. She was so focused. Whenever I had a breakpoint, she came up with some great serve. Honestly, there’s a lot I can learn from her from this match. I hope to learn a lot from that. She played an amazing match. She deserved credit, she deserved to win. At the end of the day, that’s what it was.”
Former British number one Annabel Croft commented on Osaka after her withdrawal from the 2021 French Open.
“I remember her when she first burst on the scene, in fact I used to dread interviewing her because she was so shy. She could hardly string two words together, she couldn’t lift her head, and she’d give you an absolutely disastrous interview in terms of what you needed for press. I think she is a bit of an introvert but having said that she’s gone on to win four Grand Slam titles, she’s amassed almost $20m in prize money and much more than that off court. She has become one of the most engaging, most fun, most quirky, brilliant interviews in those press conferences and I felt she was really starting to come to terms with the press. I think everyone’s a bit surprised and taken aback by what we didn’t understand behind the scenes.”