Sport: Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka
Sport: Naomi Osaka
Graham Hedley | 2019 - April to June | USA
Graham Hedley explores the career of the rising star of tennis

‘Um hello... I'm Naom... oh never mind...’ 
 
Naomi Osaka was born in 1997 in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother.   She started to play tennis at the age of three: her father, Leonard Francois, who had not played much tennis himself, saw how Richard Williams had taught his daughters, Venus and Serena and wondered whether lightening could strike twice.  
 
It did. She climbed through the rankings, entering at no 1,034 in 2012, when she was still only 15. She went all the way, reaching the world no 1 ranking on 28th January 2019.  

Naomi and her sister Nori, also a professional tennis player, were brought up in the USA from an early age.  She has been described as Japanese, Haitian and American:  she has said "My dad's Haitian, so I grew up in a Haitian household in New York. I lived with my grandma. And my mom's Japanese and I grew up in the Japanese culture too, and if you're saying American, I guess because I lived in America, I also have that too."   She can speak Japanese, but prefers not to; she is known for taking a question in Japanese and giving a reply in English.  
 
Having been brought up in a Haitian/Japanese household, and always feeling Japanese, despite holding both Japanese and US citizenship, she has opted to represent Japan in the Fed and Hopman Cups. She has won five matches in the Fed Cup and only lost one. She played in the Hopman Cup in Australia in Switzerland - even acing Roger Federer.  
 
Naomi is known for playing from the bassline - aggressively. She has served at 125mph, putting her in the ten fastest servers in women's tennis. She has been serving at 100mph or more since she was 15, allowing her to serve high numbers of winners, but she has since learned to win long rallies as well.  

But she is anything but aggressive off the court.  After she won the Indian Wells Open in 2018, her victory speech began "Um hello... I'm Naom... oh never mind."   She is going to have get used to victory speeches: with two Grand Slam titles under her belt (including a 62 6-4 victory over Serena Williams) and three other appearances in finals of WTA tournaments - and of course the world no 1 ranking –we reckon that this 21-year-old has plenty more wins to make.  
 
World Ranking 
Oct 2012      1,018 
Dec 2013         403 
Oct 2014         238  
Nov 2015         143 
Nov 2016          40  
Sep 2017           44  
Dec 2018             5  
Jan 2019              1  
 
Grand Slam Record  
Australian Open      Winner, 2019 
French Open           3rd round, 2018 
Wimbledon              3rd round 2018 
US Open                 Winner, 2018