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19 February, 2021

Naomi Osaka Is Setting An Example For Peers With These 5 Traits

TENNIS - AUS OPEN

Three-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka, 23, could have been representing the United States. 

Instead she's now recognized as the first Asian to hold the world No 1 ranking in women's singles owing to her Japanese citizenship.

Two major developments during early stages of her life decided her citizenship. Firstly, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) showed little interest in helping nurture her talent. When they eventually did, Naomi had turned 16 and declined their offer. 

According to their parents -- mother Tamaki from Hakkaido and father Leonard François, an American of Haitian origin -- Naomi and her older sister Mari, also a professional tennis player, always felt Japanese. 

The fact is, both were given their mother's maiden family name Osaka, that's the name of the large Japanese port city and commercial center on the island of Honshu.

This move was done so that their mother's marriage and the tennis players' births could be legally recorded in the family register in Japan, called the Koseki.

Koseki requires infants born to one foreign parent must have the last name of their Japanese parent in order for their parents' marriage, adoption if any and acknowledgments of paternity to be legally effective in Japan.

Naomi was taken to the United States when she was three and has lived, learned her tennis there.

As she prepares to take on first time Slam finalist American Jennifer Brady on Saturday, Naomi is setting an example for her peers with five top traits that are defining her: 

1. Powerful, aggressive when playing; soft, supportive off it: 
Naomi has established a reputation as a player who is beginning to shed her shyness when not playing.

However, when she's facing off on the court, she turns into a formidable player who is aggressive and powerful and capable of bouncing back even when she's down by a set or more.

She did receive flak when her boyfriend, rapper Cordae, flipped his middle finger at the camera posing with Naomi and her second US Open trophy. 

U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Lauren Perdue Britt were among other notable personalities who took to Twitter to make their disappointment known.

All I can say about this photo is sweetie, you can do better in the boyfriend department. 🤦🏽‍♀️ #smh #naomiosaka #usopen @usopen pic.twitter.com/cnqr9aipSv

However, Naomi had already begun her response to such criticism with her strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement. She wore a mask representing and honoring seven different Black Americans during each of her seven rounds of the U.S. Open.

She also posted a tweet with a bold message:

Cut to her third round match few days ago at the Australian Open.  A butterfly lands on her arm, flutters onto her nose, then to her leg.

Naomi does not summon help. Neither does she lose her patience. She very gently guides the butterfly to the sideline, goes ahead and wins her match. See this tweet with her video with the butterfly:

Her natural reactions to life's encounters such as these are making her endearing to her fans, who are on the rise as she continues to win more majors.

2. Mastering pressure situations calmly and bouncing back: During her rise to the top 5 in women's singles in the world, Naomi has shown, on multiple occasions, that she's mastering the art of handling pressure situations.

She's bounced back in matches that great champions watching her game would have said was tough to recover.

Such gritty recovery has enabled her to enter the final on Saturday with a 20-match winning streak.

Her charm off the court blended with a fierce display of high-powered tennis saw her become the highest-earning female athlete of all time by annual income in 2020. 

She earned $37.4 million in Covid-19 hit 2020, including $34 million in endorsements. 

3. Bringing out the X-Factor into play when needed: Naomi is not one her best strategy for a bigger occasion or opponent.

However, from the time she began her attempt to get into the women's singles Top 100 ranking, Naomi has shocked higher ranked opponents as if at will.

She did it again on Friday when she brushed aside Serena Williams's surge for her 24th Grand Slam with a swift 6-3, 6-4 semi-final victory in 75 minutes.

"I honestly haven't felt panicked until I played [Garbine] Muguruza, so I think that match really helped me," Naomi informed AusOpen.com

4. Boosting mental strength: Naomi says she spent the time during lockdown working on her mental strength apart from practice. 

She believes she's mentally stronger now in fighting for every point in a game she's ahead or behind.

“I feel like the older you get, the more mentally strong you are,” Reuters quoted Naomi saying during her U.S. Open stint. “I think that’s something that you learn from being on the tour for such a long time, playing so many matches." 

5. Placing happiness over stressing for success: Naomi famously changed her coach as she did not want to put "success over her happiness." 

She had hired Sascha Bajin as her coach and during his mentorship, won the Australian Open in 2019. 

With each year's passing, Naomi has displayed her more mature self. “When I was younger, I felt like my goal was to make history. I used to weigh my entire existence on if I won or lost a tennis match. Not now," She told AusOpen.

"Of course, it's nice to see your name on a trophy or your name on a wall. But I think bigger than that, I feel like I'm playing with a different purpose for this trip. I think I'm just so happy with my team and we've been through this entire quarantine and we've been stuck together. I just want to do really well as a vessel for everyone's hard work."

On Saturday, you can bet Naomi will enter the court happy and with her now famous shy, infectious smile.

She'll also be a bit at ease going into the final as she has defeated Jennifer Brady, her rival in the Aus Open 2021 final, few months ago in the U.S. Open semi-final on the Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Saturday's matches:
Women's Singles • Final
J. Brady 22 v N. Osaka 3

Mixed Doubles • Final
S. Stosur WC | M. Ebden WC v B. Krejcikova 6 | R. Ram 6