September 10, 2018

Player Feature: The newest Grand Slam title holder Naomi Osaka

A New Heroine

Full Name: Naomi Osaka

Birthdate: October 16, 1997

Place of Birth: Japan

Playing Years: 2013 to present

Award(s):

2018 U.S. Open Grand Slam Champion                  

2018 Indian Wells Champion

WTA Breakthrough of the Month (2016)

WTA Newcomer of the Year (2016)

Formative Years and Tennis Career:

Naomi Osaka was 15 years old when she turned professional in 2013. She currently trains in Miami, Florida, and is coached by Sascha Bajin, who also trained Serena Williams for eight years. Bajin also worked with renowned tennis stars such as Sloane Stephens, Victoria Azarenka, and Caroline Wozniacki. Naomi and her older sister, Mari Osaka, who is also tennis professional, are sometimes paralleled to Venus and Serena Williams since the duo have also been doubles partners for years, representing their Japanese heritage.

Osaka’s tennis career started when she played the first events in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) circuit in the United States in 2012. When she turned pro in 2013, she competed in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), qualifying in Quebec City and Tokyo (Pan Pacific). In 2014, she played for two WTA main draws, reaching 2R at Stanford. She also made her first main-draw on the WTA tour at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic in Auckland, New Zealand where she defeated Sam Stosur in the first round before eventually losing to Andrea Petkovic.

In 2016, Naomi Osaka made her Grand Slam debut as a qualifier at the Australian open where she beat no. 18th seed Elina Svitolina in the second round. However, Osaka lost to former Champion Victoria Azarenka in the third round. It was also in the same year when she finished at the Top 100 in the world rankings, and the top 50 later in the same year. She was voted the 2016 WTA Newcomer of the Year after she made third-round attendances at three Grand Slam tournaments, and reaching her first WTA final.  She’s also won tournaments against the likes of former world no. 1 Maria Sharapova and Karolina Pliskova, and tennis’ current no. 1, Simona Halep.

It was also during the 2016 U.S. Open where Osaka’s serve hit a record, with a speed of 125 mph – a speed that only nine tennis female players in tennis history has ever reached. Her forehand is also remarkable, having a great speed of 100 mph.

Naomi Osaka made it to the Top 100 finish for a second time in 2017, ranking at no. 68. A professional player since the age of 15, she won against then U.S. Open defending champion Angelique Kerber in the first round of the competition in 2017, where she caught the world’s attention.

Recently, during the Indian Wells last march 2018, Osaka won her first WTA title, winning against Maria Sharapova, Karolina Pliskova, and Simona Halep. The 20-year-old tennis star stunned Maria Sharapova in straight sets with her detailed and powerful serve, then later beating another former no. 1 Karolina Pliskova with an unrelenting series of great forehands. The week following the Indian Wells, she beat Serena Williams in the Miami Open. Osaka reached a career-high as of July this year, ranking no. 19 in the women’s tour.

On September 9, 2018, Naomi Osaka made history as the first Japanese woman to ever win a Grand Slam title, winning against her childhood idol, and twenty-three time title holder, Serena Williams. As of now, Osaka became the first Japanese woman ranked in the Top 10 since Ai Sugiyama, and highest ranked since Kimiko, which dates way back in October 1996. She rose to 12 spots up the rankings, overpowering last year’s U.S. Open champion, Sloane Stephens. Japan’s first Grand Slam winner also became the youngest player in the Top 10, replacing Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko.

Following her victory against Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka is currently placed at no. 7 in the WTA world rankings.

By @EliaasMJ

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