Already a star, on courtroom and off, Osaka eyes extra
Melbourne. Naomi Osaka already is a star at age 23. She has the 4 Grand Slam titles, the record-breaking endorsement offers and the willingness to talk her thoughts to show it. Now the query is: Where does she go from right here?
It was telling that the second query posed to Osaka on the information convention following her 6-4, 6-3 victory over Jennifer Brady within the Australian Open remaining Saturday — after she took a sip of celebratory bubbly that she stated made her “feel a little bit funny” — was about delivering higher performances at Wimbledon and the French Open.
After all, every of her main championships thus far got here on onerous courts at Melbourne Park (2019, 2021) or the U.S. Open (2018, 2020). She by no means has been previous the third spherical on the All England Club or Roland Garros.
Even extra revealing was Osaka’s response. Asked whether or not her first non-hard-court Slam trophy will come on clay or grass, she stated: “Hopefully clay, because it’s the one that’s sooner.”
She will not be about biding her time or affected person enchancment.
And she’s been serious about the place she wants to enhance.
“It was one of her goals this year to play well outside of the hard courts. She’s still very young. It’s time to grow on those surfaces. She also believes she can do well and, I’m sure, with the right preparation, with a few, maybe, tactical (and) technical adjustments, we’re going to do well,” stated her coach, Wim Fissette. “She’s the person that wants to grow.”
Part of what makes Osaka particular is embracing challenges and understanding what she stands for.
That’s been the case off the courtroom and on.
With a racket in her hand, it is about, as Fissette put it, with the ability to “love big matches and big moments.”
Osaka needed to face 23-time main champion Serena Williams within the semifinals, for instance.
No worry there.
“She was like when I bring my kids to the toy store: They are very excited. And Naomi was excited to go on court with Serena. It’s just beautiful to see,” Fissette stated. “At the end, this is what you train for, right? To be on the biggest stage with the best player of all time, Serena.”
Away from the sport, Osaka says, it took time to seek out her voice and categorical her views.
She was born in Japan to a Japanese mom and Haitian father, and he or she moved to the United States when she was 3. Last August, she was the primary tennis professional to hitch athletes from different sports activities in strolling out to protest the police capturing of a Black man in Wisconsin.
“Before I am an athlete,” Osaka tweeted on the time, “I am a black woman.”
On her option to the U.S. Open title in September, Osaka wore masks bearing the names of seven Black victims of violence to attract consideration to racism and police brutality.
On Saturday, Osaka was requested whether or not there was a message she needed related along with her newest triumph, which made her 4 for 4 in Slam finals.
“Honestly, for me, when everything happened in New York, I got really scared, because I felt like it put me into this light that was a non-athletic light that I’ve never been in before,” she stated.
“So I feel like there is a lot of topics that people suddenly started asking me about that I completely didn’t know about at all. For me, I only like to talk when I’m knowledgeable about the subject or at least know, like, one tiny grain of what I’m about to start talking about. So for me, I just came into this tournament just thinking purely about tennis.”
And but, within the aftermath of successful the trophy, she was prepared to consider a bigger function, too.
Many checked out her win towards Williams as a passing of the mantle. Osaka additionally received their assembly within the 2018 U.S. Open remaining — who might neglect that one? — and has eclipsed the 39-year-old American because the highest-earning feminine athlete due to thousands and thousands in sponsorship offers.
But to Osaka, Williams continues to be, and at all times might be, an idol and an inspiration, a participant whose instance she needed to comply with.
And the easiest way to repay that, Osaka figures, is to carry that function for others.