We Need To Talk About Naomi Osaka
There are plenty of headlines about the controversy surrounding the match that saw Osaka win her maiden Grand Slam title, but not enough about her outstanding achievement.
At the age of 20 Naomi Osaka has rewritten multiple history books with her first Grand Slam win at the 2018 US Open; history for Japan, history for Haiti, history for the next generation of WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) players, and history for the childhood dreamers.
Looking free from nerves and far from overwhelmed at the occasion in a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium, Osaka played some of her best tennis to beat her childhood hero Serena Williams 6-2 6-4. Notorious for her aggressive and offensive play from the back of the court, the 20-year-old stood her ground with consistent service games and minimal unforced errors. Her victory is the youngest debut women’s singles Grand Slam title since Ana Ivanovic won at the 2008 French Open, also aged 20 at the time, and will see Osaka reach a career high ranking of world number 7.
Having not reached beyond the fourth round in the other three slams this year, expectation for a maiden win was not firmly sat on Osaka’s shoulders. Instead it was perhaps faintly hovering above her following her first title win at the 2018 Indian Wells tournament; a competition played on the same hard court surface as the US Open.
Born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, Osaka was also making history for both nations. Reaching the singles final was already unknown territory to a Japanese player, male or female, with Kei Nishikori losing his semi-final clash against Novak Djokovic, but Osaka has taken the history-making one step further by becoming the first Japanese Grand Slam winner. Whilst Nishikori’s success has already brought tennis to the forefront of Japanese sport coverage - an already highly busy media field with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics fast approaching - Osaka’s achievements have cemented the country as a ‘tennis nation’ for the first time in history.
Despite just having the one title to her name prior to the US Open, Osaka’s developing game and unique talent has not gone unrecognised in previous years. In 2015 Osaka won the ‘Rising Stars’ invitational exhibition event at the WTA Finals and in 2016 she was the recipient of the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ award at the 2016 WTA Awards.
With increasing efforts from tournaments to promote the ‘Next Gen’ players, Osaka’s win in her first final, against the most successful player of all time, is the promotion that they could have only dreamed of. Naomi Osaka is proudly carrying the torch for the next generation of tennis superstars.