In recent years, volatility has been a trump card at the top of women’s tennis, but Naomi Osaka appears to be in a position to break the trend. With a victory over Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open final on Saturday, the 23-year-old Japanese has already won four Grand Slam titles and someone finally seems to be above the rest.
Conquering a Grand Slam title is one thing, but staying in the top of the world is not given to many tennis players. Players such as Sloane Stephens (winner of the US Open 2017) and Jelena Ostapenko (Roland Garros 2017) can have their say. For years now, women have been trading pennies at Grand Slam tournaments and no one is really dominating.
“Osaka has the qualities and the character to change that,” says former tennis player and commentator Kristie Boogert in a conversation with NU.nl. “A Karolína Plísková can only win a Grand Slam tournament if the favorites are knocked out early. Osaka can beat anyone with their solid serve and powerful hammer blows.”
The Australian Open finalist, who grew up in the United States as the daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian father, is a unique appearance on the tennis circuit with her modesty and self-mockery. Osaka has already mentioned itself the most awkward nobody at tennis and gets the laughs from time to time at press times. For example, she has used the Pokémon theme song (I wanna be the best, no one’s ever been) to indicate his tennis goals.
“Osaka is a different girl, but certainly not in a negative way,” Boogert says. “She lives in her own world and is very stoic, both on the track and at press conferences. Osaka shows a particular combination of her cultures in her character. Like many Japanese, she is modest, but she also does everything. that she can appreciate falling, a little this American. “
Naomi Osaka always makes a modest and stoic impression at press conferences.
Osaka boegbeeld in Black Lives Matter-protest
After her US Open (2018) and Australian Open (2019) titles, Osaka has become number one in the world, but that position has given her too much pressure. She underperformed for months, broke up with two coaches in a year, and said she lost the fun of tennis. Osaka picked up and shone on her comeback with the 2020 US Open title, a year in which she not only impressed on the track.
The three-time Grand Slam winner has become a leading figure in the Black Lives Matter movement. After the incident involving black American Jacob Blake, who was shot at point blank range several times by a cop during an arrest, she refused to intervene in the semifinals of the WTA tournament in Cincinnati. Eventually, the organization announced a one-day break.
At the US Open she won last year, Osaka wore various masks bearing the names of black Americans killed by police brutality. Some parents even thanked her in a video, to which Osaka responded modestly. “It’s the least I can do.”
“Osaka has always been a bit of a silent gray mouse, but has now broken a spear in many areas,” Boogert says. “It also helps her on the pitch, as she draws a large crowd of fans. She has a favor factor that’s already greater than Serena Williams, for example.”
Naomi Osaka wore face masks at the US Open with the names of black Americans who were killed by police brutality.
“ She must continue to enjoy the game ”
With rumors of a farewell looming for Williams, 39, the big question is whether anyone can follow in the legendary American’s footsteps in the near future. With 16-year-old Coco Gauff, among others, new talent is on the way, but right now most eyes are on Osaka.
“The big challenge for Osaka is that she has to continue to love the game,” said Boogert, who comments on matches at the Australian Open. Eurosport. “She’s one of the highest paid female athletes in the world so she doesn’t have to do it for the money anymore. If Osaka keeps the fun in sports, I’m really curious if she can approach Williams. “
For starters, Osaka must beat American Brady in the Australian Open final on Saturday (from 9:30 a.m. Dutch time). A simple challenge on paper, because Brady is “only” the world number 24 and has never been in the Grand Slam final.
“Brady will be nervous, but in the semi-finals against Karolína Muchová she was mentally strong. Many players succumb to the pressure when they miss several match points and then face breaking points, but she doesn’t. don’t. The favorite is, ”said Boogert.