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Tennis star and social activist, meet Japan’s Naomi Osaka

After beating multiple tennis champion Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka won the world by winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018 at age 21. With a discreet personality and powerful serves, the multi-ethnic tennis player attracts attention on the court. Next, learn about the sporting journey of this great athlete.

Who is Naomi Osaka?

Naomi Osaka was born in the city of Osaka on October 16, 1997. The daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, the family moved to the United States when she was 3 years old. The tennis player has an older sister, Mari, who was also a tennis player. Inspired by Richard Williams, who coached daughters Serena and Venus Williams, Naomi’s father coached both daughters during their youth, choosing not to enter them in junior competitions.

Naomi arrived in professional competitions at the age of 14, and by the age of 16 she was already competing in qualifying tournaments to enter the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). Her first title was the Master of Indian Wells in 2018. In the same year later, she won the US Open. Naomi was the first Japanese woman to win a Grand Slam.

The Naomi Osaka effect on sport

The issue of mental health is still not much discussed in sport. Several athletes leave or give up for personal reasons. Many advance retirement due to incurable pain. The 23-year-old Naomi, at the height of her career, decided not to speak to journalists after a match at Roland Garros in 2021.

As a competition policy, all players are required to speak to the press. For that, Osaka received a fine of $15,000 and a barrage of criticism. The tennis player withdrew from the competition and vented on her social media about the bouts of depression and anxiety she had been suffering.

Naomi has a shy and low-key personality, has a habit of wearing headphones, and is rarely seen off the court. In 2020, she actively participated in the Black Lives Matter movement and, the following year, put mental health in sport on the agenda.

In an interview with Time magazine, Naomi says it’s okay to not be okay, and stresses the importance of creating alternatives to protect athletes. So, the tennis player took a break from her career to take care of herself. Her return came at the 2022 Australian Open, with the declaration that she was at peace with herself.

10 facts about Naomi Osaka

To get to know the victorious tennis player better, check out 10 inspiring facts:

1. First Asian to lead the WTA ranking

Naomi is the first Asian to lead the world rankings for women’s tennis, the WTA. In 2019, she beat Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the final of the Australian Open.

2. Won 4 Grand Slams

The tennis player won her first Grand Slam at age 21 against one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Serena Williams. During her career, she has won two editions of the US Open (2018 and 2020) and two editions of the Australian Open (2019 and 2021).

3. Lit the Olympic cauldron for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The first tennis player to take part in the symbolic act of lighting the Olympic cauldron and closing the opening ceremony of an edition of the Olympic Games. Naomi arrived in Tokyo as one of the promises to win the games, but was eliminated in the third round.

4. Has its own cosmetics brand

Called “Kinlò”, the cosmetics brand celebrates the biculturality of the tennis player, daughter of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father. Kin and Lò mean gold in Japanese and in Haitian Creole. The skincare product line is aimed at skins with high melanin.

5. Highest-Paid Female Athlete in the World in 2021

In a survey made by Forbes magazine, Naomi pocketed about 57.3 million dollars, between salaries and sponsorships, in the 2021/2022 season. She overtook the victorious tennis players Serena and Venus Williams, who placed second and third respectively.

6. Presented at the Met Gala 2021

Alongside actor Timothée Chalamet, singer Billie Eilish and poet Amanda Gorman, Naomi co-chaired the Met Gala, an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Chosen by Anna Wintour, event organizer and chief director of Vogue, the stars left their mark on fashion and represented Generation Z.

7. It brought an important debate about mental health in sport

After dropping out of Roland Garros in 2021, Naomi revealed that she has suffered from bouts of depression since the final of the US Open in 2018. She decided to step away from the courts, after the Olympic Games, to take care of her mental health. “I will be taking some time off the court now, but when the time is right, I would like to discuss ways to make things better for the players, the press and the fans. I hope everyone is well and safe. Love you all,” she announced her on her twitter.

8. Activist on and off the court

The wave of anti-racist demonstrations had great repercussions in the United States in 2020. As a protest, the tennis player wore masks with the names of black people murdered by US police during the US Open matches.

9. Mattel launches Barbie inspired by Naomi

Naomi is an inspiration to children all over the world. In 2021, Mattel released a Barbie inspired by the tennis player. Holding a Yones racket, Nike tennis uniform and a white visor, the doll is part of the Barbie Role Model series and sold out shortly after release.

10. Won the Laureus Award three times

Considered the “Oscar of sport”, the Laureus award recognizes the best athletes of the year. Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough Athlete award in 2019. Furthermore, she won the Best Female Athlete award in 2020 and 2021.

Today’s greatest Japanese tennis player never tires of making history and making tennis a more inclusive and discussed sport. Enjoy and check out the story of another young athlete who is breaking records and winning awards, the Brazilian skater Rayssa Leal.

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