Naomi Osaka: The Future of Tennis

Naomi Osaka continues to break records with her recent Australian Open win.

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Ben Zakharov

Ben Zakharov ’21 captured this photo of Naomi Osaka about to serve when playing against Coco Gauff at the 2019 US Open.

Naomi Osaka secured her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open, winning in straight sets against American tennis player Jennifer Brady.

At only 23 years old, Osaka continues to gain international attention and serve as an inspiration to young tennis players all around the world as she brings an innovative and modern feel to the sport of tennis. 

Naomi Osaka has been playing tennis since the age of three, when her family moved from Japan to Long Island, NY, and her father began coaching her and her older sister. To continue training, Osaka moved to Florida, but through all her time growing up in the United States, Osaka’s Japanese identity remained extremely important for her and her family. As a result she made the decision to represent Japan in her tennis career. With this decision, Osaka has quickly risen to breaking new records, being the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title and earn a number one ranking by the Women’s Tennis Association. 

“I definitely feel that Naomi Osaka is breaking barriers and being an inspiration to everyone across the U.S. Her particular playing style really inspires me to improve my own, putting a larger emphasis on development of points rather than brainless hitting back and forth. Not to mention, her being part Japanese, and this idea of representing the Asian community in professional sports. In all, her dedication to working hard and ability to perform and represent under pressure is something I am really inspired by and it is a value I want to instill better in myself,” said Andrew Cheng ’21 a player on the Bronx Science Boys’ Varsity Tennis team.

“In a sport dominated by white men with bad tempers, a black Asian woman who quickly fought her way to the top is a welcome and inspirational antithesis helping to change the image people see when they think of tennis for the better,” said Ben Zakharov ’21. (Ben Zakharov)

I first watched Naomi Osaka play at the 2018 US Open, where she won her first Grand Slam title in a dramatic final match against Serena Williams. During that match, Williams received three code violations, including one for smashing her racket. As each violation was called, the crowd became more confused and erupted in disruptive boos. Osaka did not let any of these interruptions distract her from winning her first major final, however. After the match, Serena Williams greeted Naomi Osaka with a smile, wrapped her arm around her, and urged the crowd to stop the booing. 

This match revealed a major part of what makes Osaka’s conduct and character in her tennis career so unique. At first glance, Osaka appears to be a shy, young tennis player, but once she hits the court her strength and confidence becomes clear.

“Naomi Osaka is a beast in sheep’s clothing. She is kind, compassionate, respectful, and displays the best sportsmanship of anyone on the tour. Once she steps out onto the court, she won’t let you forget that she’s one of the best tennis players in the world. She is an unstoppable force of unimaginable strength, talent, and inspiration, taking down many of the greats who had previously comfortably sat atop the throne of women’s tennis,” said Ben Zakharov ’21.

Osaka has found many ways to have her voice be heard off the court as well. At the 2020 US Open, Osaka wore seven face masks for each day of the tournament with the names of seven different Black victims of racial injustice who are important parts of the Black Lives Matter movement: Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

Osaka has also used many of her social media platforms to speak up against racial injustice and police brutality. She urged people in Japan to join in a Black Lives Matter march in her birthplace of Osaka, Japan. 

With Naomi Osaka’s father being Haitian, Osaka’s place as a Black woman in a predominantly white sport is extremely important for the future of tennis.

“Once she steps out onto the court, she won’t let you forget that she’s one of the best tennis players in the world. She is an unstoppable force of unimaginable strength, talent, and inspiration, taking down many of the greats who had previously comfortably sat atop the throne of women’s tennis,” said Ben Zakharov ’21.

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