Naomi Osaka

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Naomi Osaka
Osaka WM17 (4) (36143097936).jpg
Country (sports) Japan
ResidenceBoca Raton, Florida, United States
Born (1997-10-16) October 16, 1997 (age 21)
Chūō-ku, Osaka, Japan
Height1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Turned proSeptember 2013
PlaysRight-handed (two-handed backhand)
CoachSascha Bajin (2018–2019)
Prize money$10,733,311
Official websitenaomiosaka.com
Singles
Career record178–119 (59.93%)
Career titles3 WTA, 0 ITF[1]
Highest rankingNo. 1 (January 28, 2019)
Current rankingNo. 1 (January 28, 2019)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian OpenW (2019)
French Open3R (2016, 2018)
Wimbledon3R (2017, 2018)
US OpenW (2018)
Other tournaments
Tour FinalsRR (2018)
Doubles
Career record2–14 (12.5%)
Career titles0
Highest rankingNo. 324 (April 3, 2017)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open1R (2017)
French Open2R (2016)
Wimbledon1R (2017)
US Open1R (2016)
Team competitions
Fed CupWG II PO (2018)
Hopman CupRR (2018)
Last updated on: November 3, 2018.

Naomi Osaka (大坂 なおみ, Ōsaka Naomi, born October 16, 1997) is a professional tennis player who represents Japan. She is the current US Open and Australian Open champion in women's singles, and No. 1 in the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, which she achieved in January 2019.

Born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother, Osaka has lived in the United States since she was three years old. She came to prominence at the age of sixteen when she defeated former US Open champion Samantha Stosur in her WTA Tour debut at the 2014 Stanford Classic. Two years later, she reached her first WTA final at the 2016 Pan Pacific Open in Japan to enter the top 50 of the WTA rankings. Osaka made her breakthrough into the upper echelon of women's tennis in 2018, when she won her first WTA title at the Indian Wells Open. In September, she won the US Open, defeating 23-time major champion Serena Williams in the final to become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament. Her second Grand Slam title came in January 2019, when she won the Australian Open, becoming the first Asian player to be the world's number one.

Osaka is known for her aggressive playing style with a powerful serve. Off the court, she is known for her shy, candid personality and her occasional spontaneous humour.

Early life and background[edit]

Naomi was born on October 16, 1997, in Chūō-ku, Osaka in Japan to Tamaki Osaka and Leonard François.[2] Her mother is from Hokkaido, Japan, and her father is from Haiti. She has an older sister named Mari who is also a professional tennis player. The two girls were given their mother's maiden name for practical reasons when the family lived in Japan. Osaka's parents had met when her father was visiting Hokkaido while he was a college student from New York.[3][4]

When Osaka was three years old, her family moved from Japan to Long Island, New York to live with her father's parents. Osaka's father was inspired to teach his daughters how to play tennis, by watching the Williams sisters compete at the 1999 French Open. Having little experience as a tennis player himself, he sought to emulate how Richard Williams trained his daughters to become two of the best players in the world, despite having never played the sport. François remarked that, "The blueprint was already there. I just had to follow it", with regard to the detailed plan Richard had developed for his kids. He began coaching Naomi and Mari once they settled in the United States.[3] In 2006, Osaka's family moved to Florida when Naomi was eight or nine years old so that they would have better opportunities to train. Naomi practiced on the Pembroke Pines public courts.[3] When she was 15 years old, she began working with Patrick Tauma at the ISP Academy.[5] In 2014, she moved to the Harold Solomon Tennis Academy.[6] She later trained at the ProWorld Tennis Academy.[7]

Although Osaka was raised in the United States, her parents decided that their daughters would represent Japan. They said, "We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age. 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. It was never a financially motivated decision nor were we ever swayed either way by any national federation."[7] This decision may have also been motivated by a lack of interest from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) when Naomi was still a young player.[3] The USTA later offered Naomi the opportunity to train at their national training center in Boca Raton when she was 16 years old, but she declined.[7]

Professional career[edit]

2011–15: WTA Tour match win at age 16, top 150[edit]

Osaka interviewed at the 2014 Stanford Classic alongside Serena Williams

Osaka never competed on the ITF Junior Circuit, the premier international junior tour, and only played in a small number of junior tournaments at any age level.[8] She instead skipped to the ITF Women's Circuit and played her first qualifying match in October 2011 on her 14th birthday.[9] She then made her professional main draw debut in doubles at her next tournament in March with her sister Mari. Meanwhile, she did not qualify for her first singles main draw until July in her seventh such attempt. Her best result of the 2012 season came at the ITF $10K event in Amelia Island, where she lost to her sister in the semifinals.[1] Osaka has never won a title at the ITF level, only managing to finish runner-up on four occasions.[1] Her first two finals came at the $25K level, one of which was in June 2013 in El Paso, Texas. The other was in March 2014 in Irapuato, Mexico and included a victory over her sister.[1]

In September 2013, Osaka turned pro shortly before turning 16 years old.[10] She entered her first two qualifying draws on the WTA Tour that same month at the Challenge Bell in Québec and the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. The latter event was her first opportunity to compete professionally in Japan.[1] The following summer, Osaka qualified for her first WTA main draw at the 2014 Stanford Classic. In her tour level debut, she upset world No. 19 Samantha Stosur in a tight match where she saved a match point in the second set tiebreak and came back from a 5–3 deficit in the third set. She was still just 16 years old and ranked No. 406 at the time.[11][12] Osaka also won a match as a wild card at the Japan Women's Open, her only other WTA main draw of the year.[13] These victories helped her break into the top 250 of the WTA rankings before the end of the season.[14]

Despite not winning another WTA main draw singles match in 2015, Osaka continued to climb up the rankings.[8][14] She reached her two highest level ITF finals, the first at the $75K Kangaroo Cup in Japan and the second at the $50K Surbiton Trophy in the United Kingdom.[1] Following these runner-up results, Osaka was ranked high enough to enter qualifying at the last two Grand Slam singles events of the year, Wimbledon and the US Open. She won her first match at the US Open, but was unable to qualify for either main draw.[1] Nonetheless, Osaka had a strong finish to the year. In October during the WTA Finals, she won the Rising Stars Invitational four-player exhibition tournament, defeating heavy favorite and world No. 35 Caroline Garcia in the final.[15] Continuing to play in November, Osaka then reached the biggest final of her career at the WTA 125K Hua Hin Championships in Thailand. After a semifinal at a $75K event in Japan, she finished the year ranked No. 144.[14]

2016: First WTA final, Newcomer of the Year, top 50[edit]

Naomi Osaka at the 2016 US Open

Osaka began the season playing three tournaments in Australia. Her results during this stretch were good enough to bring her onto the cusp of the top 100,[14] which allowed her WTA Tour-level events all year.[8] Most notably, she qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw at the Australian Open and made it to the third round. In particular, she upset No. 21 Elina Svitolina in straight sets in the second round before losing to No. 16 Victoria Azarenka.[16] Back in the United States, Osaka received a wild card into the Miami Open, her first Premier Mandatory main draw. During the event, she won two matches including a victory over No. 18 Sara Errani.[17] With this success, she cracked the top 100 of the WTA rankings for the first time.[14]

In the clay court events leading up the French Open, Osaka needed to qualify for every event she entered. She only managed to do so at a single event, the Charleston Open, where she lost her only match in the main draw.[1] Nonetheless, Osaka was ranked high enough to be directly accepted into the main draw of the French Open. In her debut at the tournament, she recorded her only two clay court match wins of the season. She also won the first set against No. 6 Simona Halep, but ultimately lost the match.[18][19] She then did not play the grass court season after suffering an injury shortly after the French Open.[20][1]

Osaka returned to tennis in the middle of July.[1] At the US Open in August, she reached the third round at a Grand Slam event for the third time this year. She upset No. 30 CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round before losing to No. 9 Madison Keys in three sets.[21] During her match against Keys, she had a 5–1 lead in the third set before ultimately losing in a tiebreak.[22] After the tournament, Osaka began the Asian hard court season with two tournaments in Tokyo, first losing in the second round at the Japan Women's Open.[23] Having already reached her first two career WTA quarterfinals earlier in the year, she then made her breakthrough as a wild card at the Premier level Pan Pacific Open. She upset No. 12 Dominika Cibulková and No. 20 Svitolina on the road to making her first WTA final at the age of 18. At the time, Cibulkova was the highest ranked player she ever defeated. Additionally, she was the first Japanese player to contest the final at the event since Kimiko Date in 1995.[24][25] Osaka ultimately finished runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki.[26] Nonetheless, she entered the top 50 of the WTA rankings for the first time.[14] At the end of the season, she was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year.[27]

2017: Slight regression, two top 10 victories[edit]

After her huge improvement the previous year, Osaka was unable to set a new career high ranking in 2017. Nonetheless, she maintained a steady ranking throughout the season, rising no higher than No. 44 while falling no lower than No. 68, her year-end ranking.[14] She did not win more than two main draw matches at any event all year.[1]

Osaka's best tournament result of the season came at the Canadian Open, where she reached the round of sixteen as a qualifier. During the event, she upset No. 16 Anastasija Sevastova before needing to retire against world No. 1 Karolína Plíšková due to an abdominal injury. She had won the second set against Plíšková.[28] Her next best results of the year came at the last two Grand Slam events of the season, where she made it to the third round at each of Wimbledon and the US Open. She had a strong debut at Wimbledon, upsetting No. 23 Barbora Strýcová before losing to No. 11 Venus Williams.[29][30] Her US Open was then highlighted by her first round win against defending champion and No. 6 Angelique Kerber, the first top ten victory of Osaka's career.[31][32] However, her run was ended by veteran qualifier Kaia Kanepi.[33] This was the second consecutive year she lost in the third round of the US Open after having at least a one-break lead in the third set.[34]

Osaka in particular struggled playing on clay courts. After winning her first two matches at the Charleston Open,[35] she did not win another main draw match on clay the rest of the season. Osaka did well in her first full grass court season on the WTA Tour, going 4–4 behind her performance at Wimbledon.[1] Her biggest wins of the year all came on hard court. In addition to her results at the Canadian Open and the US Open, she also recorded a second top ten victory over No. 5 Venus Williams at the Hong Kong Open, her last tournament of the year.[36]

2018: US Open champion, Indian Wells title, world No. 4[edit]

Osaka at the 2018 Nottingham Open

Following her lack of improvement in 2017, Osaka hired Sascha Bajin to be her coach in the offseason.[37][38] In their second tournament together, Osaka produced her career best result at a Grand Slam event. At the Australian Open, she reached the fourth round after defeating two top twenty players in Elena Vesnina and hometown favorite Ashleigh Barty, ultimately losing to world No. 1 Simona Halep.[39][40][41] This result helped her return to the top 50 within the next month.[14]

At the Indian Wells Open, Osaka had the next big breakthrough of her career. Having never won a professional title or made it past the third round at a Premier Mandatory event, she won the tournament convincingly, only dropping one set in the middle round of the tournament. In the quarterfinals and semifinals, she defeated two top five opponents in Karolína Plíšková and Halep, the latter of which was her first victory over a current world No. 1 player.[42][43] She then closed out the tournament with a win in the final over fellow up-and-coming player Daria Kasatkina, making her the youngest champion at the event in ten years.[44] With her first title, she surged past her previous career high ranking to No. 22 in the world.[14] Osaka played the following week as well at the Miami Open and extended her win streak one additional match in her first ever meeting against her childhood idol Serena Williams, who was competing in just her second tournament back from maternity leave.[45]

After her success in the early months of the season, Osaka had a relatively quiet middle of the year. She reached the third round at both the French Open and Wimbledon, matching her best performance at each tournament.[46][47] The closest she came to winning another tournament was on grass at the Nottingham Open, where she lost to top seeded Barty in the semifinals.[48] Osaka did not have another breakthrough result until the US Open, where she won her second title of the year. Like at Indian Wells, she only dropped one set in the middle round of the event, this time to No. 20 Aryna Sabalenka. In the three early rounds, she only lost a total of seven games and notably recorded a double bagel victory against Aliaksandra Sasnovich.[49] Osaka was drawn against Madison Keys in the semifinals, and was able to avenge her tough loss from the 2016 US Open to advance to the final.[50] In the final, she defeated Serena Williams for the second time this year to win her first major title. The match was marred by an on-court dispute between Williams and the umpire highlighted by Williams receiving an unusual game penalty and boos from the crowd both during the match and the award ceremony.[51] Osaka later said that the win was "a little bit bittersweet" and "it wasn't necessarily the happiest memory."[52] Nonetheless, she became the first Japanese woman to contest a Grand Slam singles final and the first Japanese Grand Slam singles champion.[53][54]

Now ranked in the top ten, Osaka extended her win streak to ten matches by reaching the final at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo for the second time in her career. Plíšková was able to end her win streak in the final.[55] Osaka then reached the semifinals at the Premier Mandatory China Open.[56] With her third consecutive deep run, she rose to a career best ranking of world No. 4, matching the record of Kimiko Date and Kei Nishikori for the highest ranking held by a Japanese player in history.[57] Osaka closed out the year by participating at the WTA Finals, where she was grouped with Sloane Stephens, Angelique Kerber, and Kiki Bertens. She lost all three of her round robin matches, notably retiring against Bertens due to a hamstring injury to end her season.[58] Osaka finished the year as the WTA Tour leader in prize money, having earned almost $6.4 million.[59]

2019: Australian Open champion, world No. 1[edit]

Osaka was seeded fourth at the Australian Open. She defeated Magda Linette and Tamara Zidanšek to reach the third round, where she faced 28th seed Hsieh Su-wei. After losing the first set, she won 10 of the last 12 games to win in three sets. In the fourth round, she defeated 13th seed Anastasija Sevastova in three sets to make her first quarterfinal in Melbourne, where she defeated sixth seeded Elina Svitolina. A three set victory over 7th seed Karolína Plíšková saw Osaka move through to her second consecutive Grand Slam final, where she defeated 8th seed Petra Kvitová in three sets to claim her second consecutive slam title. With the victory, Osaka became the first player to win two consecutive Grand Slam trophies since Serena Williams in 2015, and the first player to back up her maiden major title at the next Grand Slam since Jennifer Capriati won the Australian and French Opens in 2001.[60] As a result of the win, she became the WTA world No. 1, the first Asian player to do so.[61]

National representation[edit]

Fed Cup[edit]

Osaka made her Fed Cup debut for Japan in 2017, while the team was competing in the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I. Japan won all nine of their rubbers to advance out of their round robin pool. Although Osaka won her singles match in the play-off against Kazakhstan, the team lost their other two matches and was not able to advance.[62] The following year with Osaka absent, Japan was able to defeat Kazakhstan in the same group to advance to the 2018 World Group II Play-offs.[63] In this stage, they hosted Great Britain in a usual five rubber tie. At this point, Osaka returned to the team and won her opening match against Heather Watson.[64] After she lost her next rubber to Johanna Konta, Kurumi Nara was also able to defeat Watson to set up a decisive doubles match. Japan won that final rubber to earn promotion to World Group II in 2019.[65]

Hopman Cup[edit]

Osaka made her Hopman Cup debut in 2018 with Yūichi Sugita. Japan was making their first appearance at the exhibition tournament since 2001.[66] They were grouped with Switzerland, the United States, and Russia, and lost all three of their ties. Osaka's only match win came in singles against Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. She also had a big highlight in the mixed doubles match against Switzerland when she served an ace past Roger Federer.[67]

Playing style[edit]

Osaka serving

Osaka is an aggressive baseline player.[68] She has excellent raw power, especially on her forehand and her serve. Osaka could hit 100 miles per hour (160 km/h) forehands at the age of sixteen, and her serve has been clocked at up to 125 miles per hour (200 km/h), making her one of the ten fastest servers on record in WTA history.[69][70] While she can use her power to hit high numbers of winners, Osaka excels in particular in long rallies.[69] One of the first key instances in which that strategy proved successful was when Osaka made her first career WTA final at the 2016 Pan Pacific Open.[71]

Osaka credited improving her mental approach and cutting down on unforced errors for her breakthrough season in 2018. At the Wuhan Open towards the end of the year, she noted that, "I think my biggest improvement is mental. My game is more consistent, there are not so many unforced errors. I'm not sure how many I hit today, but sometimes last year I was hitting a lot!"[72] She attributed some of these changes to her coach Sascha Bajin, saying, "Since I was working with [Bajin] — and I tend to be a bit negative on myself — I feel like I've gotten a little bit more optimistic ... I fight myself a lot, so he's sort of been, like, the peacemaker." Bajin also agreed with Osaka on the impact of having a patient, positive approach in each match.[73]

Coaches[edit]

Osaka grew up being coached by her father Leonard François from when she was three years old.[3] Patrick Tauma was one of her first coaches after she began playing on the ITF Women's Circuit. He was her coach in 2013 when she reached her first ITF final.[5][74] In 2014, she spent seven months training at an academy run by Harold Solomon, a former top five player and French Open finalist who has coached many top women's tennis players including Jennifer Capriati and Mary Joe Fernández.[75][6] Under Solomon, Osaka defeated Sam Stosur for her first WTA match win.[6]

Following her tough loss at the 2016 US Open, the Japan Tennis Association helped arrange for David Taylor to be her new coach.[69] After a lackluster 2017 season, she switched coaches to Sascha Bajin [de], who had previously served as a hitting partner to top players such as Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki.[76][73] With Bajin as her coach, Osaka won her first Premier Mandatory and Grand Slam singles titles,[44][54] climbing into the top five of the WTA rankings after having never previously been ranked above No. 40.[14] In 2018, Bajin won the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year award.[77]

On 11 February 2019, Osaka announced on Twitter that she would no longer be working with Bajin.[78][79]

Endorsements[edit]

Osaka has been represented by IMG since 2016.[80] The Japanese sporting equipment manufacturer Yonex has supplied her with rackets since 2008.[81] She plays with the Yonex Ezone 98 racket, equipped with Polytour Pro 125 and Rexis 130 strings.[82] Adidas has been her apparel sponsor since 2015.[83]

Osaka is a brand ambassador for Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan Motor and Japanese electronics manufacturer Citizen Watch.[81][84] She also endorses several other Japanese companies, including noodle maker Nissin Foods, cosmetics producer Shiseido, and the broadcasting station Wowow.[85][86] In 2019, she was sponsored by Japanese airline All Nippon Airways.[87]

Personal life[edit]

Osaka has a multi-ethnic background with her father being born in Haiti and her mother being from Japan. She has been described as various combinations of Japanese, Haitian, and American.[88][89][90][91][92] 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 with the Japanese culture too, and if you're saying American, I guess because I lived in America, I also have that too."[4] Her Haitian grandparents only spoke to her in Creole because they did not know English, while her mother spoke to her in Japanese.[3] Osaka has dual American and Japanese citizenship. She can understand Japanese, but is not very confident speaking the language. She has said, "I can understand way more Japanese than I can speak."[93] At press conferences, Osaka can take questions in Japanese but typically will answer them in English.[94][95] Osaka currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida.[96]

Osaka's background is particularly unusual given that she represents Japan, one of the most racially homogeneous countries in the world. In Japan, she is referred to as a hāfu, meaning that she is half-Japanese.[93] Osaka's Japanese grandparents did not initially accept her parents' relationship. This led to her parents relocating from Hokkaido to Osaka, where Naomi and her sister were eventually born. As a result, her mother did not have contact with her family for nearly fifteen years and Naomi did not get the chance to return to Japan until she was eleven years old. Her grandparents did not initially support her parents for building their daughters' lives around tennis.[3] However, they later began to support Naomi as a tennis player following her unexpected upset of Sam Stosur in her WTA Tour debut.[3] They were also proud of her in particular for winning the 2018 US Open.[97]

Osaka has a shy, reserved personality.[98] Her coach Sascha Bajin was initially confused by her personality, saying, "I thought she was a little bit more of a diva because she didn't talk much. She doesn't really look at someone's eyes, but that's just because she was always so shy ... Back then I didn't know for what reason."[73] Osaka is also very frank and is regarded as having a dry sense of humor. During her 2018 Indian Wells Open victory speech, she began by saying "Um, hello ... I'm Naom ... oh never mind" and later noted, "This is probably going to be the worst acceptance speech of all time" after being worried about forgetting who to thank, and appearing to nearly forget to thank her opponent Daria Kasatkina as well as one of her sponsors Yonex.[99][100]

Career statistics[edit]

Grand Slam tournament finals[edit]

Result Year Tournament Surface Opponent Score
Win 2018 US Open Hard United States Serena Williams 6–2, 6–4
Win 2019 Australian Open Hard Czech Republic Petra Kvitová 7–6(7–2), 5–7, 6–4

Grand Slam singles performance timeline[edit]

Key
W  F  SF QF #R RR Q# A NH
(W) Won; (F) finalist; (SF) semifinalist; (QF) quarterfinalist; (#R) rounds 4, 3, 2, 1; (RR) round-robin stage; (Q#) qualification round; (A) absent; (NH) not held. SR=strike rate (events won/competed)
To avoid confusion and double counting, these charts are updated at the conclusion of a tournament or when the player's participation has ended.

Current through 2019 Australian Open.

Tournament 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 SR W–L Win %
Australian Open A 3R 2R 4R W 1 / 4 13–3 81%
French Open A 3R 1R 3R 0 / 3 4–3 57%
Wimbledon Q1 A 3R 3R 0 / 2 4–2 67%
US Open Q2 3R 3R W 1 / 3 11–2 85%
Win–Loss 0–0 6–3 5–4 14–3 7–0 2 / 12 32–10 76%

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External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Romania Simona Halep
World No. 1
28 January 2019 – present
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Awards
Preceded by
Russia Daria Gavrilova
WTA Newcomer of the Year
2016
Succeeded by
United States Catherine Bellis