Naomi Osaka biography
Naomi Osaka will enter the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as the first Asian tennis player to reach world No.1, the first Japanese-born player to win a grand slam and one of the standout home-town favourites for gold. Do not bet against her creating yet more history in Japan’s capital city.
Born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, Osaka first grabbed the headlines in 2016. Aged 19, a string of fine performances secured the coveted Women’s Tour Association (WTA) Newcomer of the Year award. It was just the start.
After consolidating her gains in 2017, Osaka’s standout 2018 began by defeating the then-world No.1 Simona Halep on her way to a first WTA title at the prestigious Indian Wells tournament in March. Seven months later she took it to a whole new level by defeating her all-time idol Serena Williams in the final of the US Open.
While the match was marred by controversy, with Williams heavily penalised for an ongoing argument with the umpire, there is no doubt who the better player was. Osaka bossed it from start to finish. Despite facing Williams who was going for a record-breaking 24th grand slam title in front of her home crowd, Osaka remained unflustered throughout. A 114mph (183 km/h) service winner secured a 6-2 6-4 win and her own slice of history.
“It was always my dream to play Serena in the US Open finals,” said Osaka, who was brought up in the USA from the age of three.
She was back in dreamland in her very next major. Made to work throughout, Osaka battled to the final of the 2019 Australian Open where she faced two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. After blowing three match points in the second set, Osaka edged a thrilling third to become the first back-to-back grand slam winner in the women’s game since Jennifer Capriati in 2001. It was the type of performance that generates gold medal chat.
“I am worried because of the high expectations from the surroundings,” Osaka said of Tokyo 2020. “But I want to play like me and get a gold medal.”