Why Our Eyes Will Be Glued to Naomi Osaka During This Year's U.S. Open
Here's everything you should know about the Japanese-American tennis player who's been dominating the court.
Naomi Osaka's reserved demeanor is so at odds with her savage performances on the court that it's inspired a new word. Naomi-bushi, meaning "Naomi-esque" in Japanese, was nominated for the 2018 Japanese buzzword of the year.
Even if you're oblivious to Osaka's off-court personality, her love of video games, and her photography Instagram account, chances are you heard about when she beat Serena Williams last year during the US Open Women's Final. She became the first-ever Japanese tennis player to win the Grand Slam. The historic win attracted even more buzz because of the controversial call that resulted in Osaka's win and Williams' reaction. (Here's what happened if you missed it.)
Williams has since opened up about how she felt during the aftermath, telling Harper's Bazaar she messaged Osaka to say that she was "so proud" of her and that she "would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete." (BTW, Osaka was born to a Japanese mom and Haitian-American dad.) Osaka describes how she felt about Serena's message in one word: "Honored."
A year later, Osaka is now gearing up for the 2019 U.S. Open. She's seeded number one in Women's Singles despite the fact that she had to withdraw from a match at the Cincinnati Masters due to a knee injury. She's scored multiple partnerships, including a new one with BODYARMOR. (She's known to stay hydrated with BODYARMOR LYTE.) Motivation comes naturally and she never particularly minds workouts, she says, but recovery is a different story: “I definitely hate the post-match ice bath. My physio makes me stay in for 15 minutes and it’s always the worst minutes of my day.” (Related: Everything to Know About Cori Gauff, the 15-Year-Old Tennis Star Who Beat Venus Williams)
Going into the U.S. Open this year, Osaka says she feels differently with a Grand Slam win under her belt. She's hoping to enjoy herself more this time around, something she opened up about last month before heading to the Rogers Cup. "...I can honestly reflect and say I probably haven't had fun playing tennis since Australia and I'm finally coming to terms with that while relearning that fun feeling," she wrote in a Twitter post at the time. She wrote that she’d been going through some of the worst months of her life, but now she feels like she’s in a better place. "Maybe I exaggerated a bit [when I wrote the post], but when you’re in the thick of the season, your mood is reflected in your results,” she says. “I wasn’t happy with my game so that was creeping into my everyday life. But I’m definitely in a much more positive space now and have re-found my love of tennis."
She’s certainly earned the chance to enjoy every single second.