This past Sunday the world watched as tennis champion Naomi Osaka defeated legend Serena Williams in a controversial match at the U.S. Open women’s final in New York that upset viewers and users on social media. The 20-year-old star athlete went pro five years ago in 2013 and has been dominating the tennis courts ever since. This past year has been a string of especially impressive wins for the tennis player who has won matches against Maria Sharapova and Karolína Plíšková as well as tennis’ current world lead Simona Halep.
Here’s a look at 8 fascinating facts about the women’s all-star and the new reina de la tennis court. Including who her celebrity crush is.
She’s of Haitian descent.
Osaka was born in Chūō-ku, Osaka to a Japanese mother, Tamaki Osaka, and a Haitian father, Leonard “San” François. Osaka took her mother’s maiden name. She holds dual Japanese and American citizenship.
Her biracial identity has caused familial disputes.
Japan is a pretty racially homogeneous country, where because of her biracial identity, Osaka is considered “hāfu,” or a person who is of mixed-race. When Osaka’s Japanese grandfather discovered that her mother had become romantically attached to a Black man, he became furious and as a result, her mother became estranged from her family for almost over ten years. Speaking about the racial assumptions and prejudices she has had to face her entire life, Osaka has said that people are often confused when they see her in Japan. “From my name, they don’t expect to see a black girl.”
She’s faced with quite a bit of labels.
Like most Latinas living in the United States, Osaka has a pretty complex and mixed identity. The fact that she is a Japanese-born woman with a Haitian-American father who doesn’t speak Japanese fluently and was raised in the United States doesn’t make her descriptors any easier. Media outlets have described her as being Japanese, Haitian, American, Japanese- American, Japanese Haitian, and Haitian-American-Japanese.
She knows how to win.
During the 2018 US Open, Osaka became the first Japanese citizen to win a Grand Slam singles tournament when she won her big match against Serena Williams. Her current world ranking is No. 7. With a serve that has hit up to 125 miles per hour, there’s no doubting her force and strength in the game.
She’s got jokes.
Despite her apparent shyness, Naomi has become known amongst reporters for her sharp sense of humor. In 2017, the tennis star won laughs during an interview in which she talked about letting her mind wander during practice. “Once I was practicing, right, and my whole practice– you know, there is that commercial that says ‘If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma,’ that’s all I could think about for the whole practice. I was like, why do I keep thinking this?”
Her father got her into tennis because of the Williams sisters.
After seeing the two sisters play at the 1999 French Open, Osaka’s father decided to give her and her sister tennis lessons. Osaka grew up idolizing Williams and ultimately crushed her as an opponent for the first time at the WTA Tour earlier this year and defeated the American tennis legend once again at the U.S. Open over the weekend.
Her sister, Mari, is her doubles partner.
Mari Osaka was born two years before her sister Naomi and is also a professional tennis player who represents Japan. The two sisters have competed alongside each other in matches as doubles partners. Unlike Naomi, Mari speaks fluent English and Japanese.
She’s got a thing for Michael B. Jordan.
During an interview on “The Ellen Show,” Ellen Degeneres asked the tennis star which celebrity she currently had a crush on. Osaka replied “I don’t know his name but he was in Black Panther,” she said. “He was the villain.” Ellen replied saying “Oh Michael B. Jordan, you want me to text him?” Osaka responded with a blush and insisted that Ellen shouldn’t.
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