Naomi Osaka, 23, has done it again! The tennis superstar has claimed the 2021 Australian Open after she took on Serena Williams, 39, in the semi-finals and beat out Jennifer Brady for the Grand Slam title. Naomi, a rising star of the sport, now has four major career wins, including the 2020 U.S. Open, the 2019 Australian Open and the 2018 U.S Open.
She has also been at the forefront of the fight against racial injustice and police brutality. Throughout the 2020 U.S. Open, she wore protective masks that featured the names: Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain. Each name represented the identity of a Black person who died at the hands of police. Learn more about Naomi, who’s emerged as one of tennis’ leading voices on issues of racism, equality and more!
1. Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player who represents Japan.
She started her professional career in 2013, despite playing at a young age. In 2016, she won “Newcomer of the Year” at the Women’s Tennis Association Awards. Naomi went on to win the 2018 US Open and the 2019 Australian Open. In March of 2018, Naomi became the first Japanese woman to win the Indian Wells Masters in California. The event is widely considered the second biggest event in tennis, right behind the Grand Slam. In September of 2018, Naomi’s star power got even stronger (at age 20) when she beat her idol, Serena Williams (then 36) at US Open. In 2020, Naomi was the highest-earning female athlete in endorsement income.
2. She has used her platform to inspire change.
Naomi has made it clear that her purpose is much bigger than just tennis. “I feel like I’m a vessel at this point in order to spread awareness and it’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything that they need,” she said after she was surprised with video messages from Arbery and Martin’s families thanking her for her support. “I just want to say thank you to Naomi Osaka for representing Trayvon Martin on your customized mask and also for Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said in a video message shared by ESPN — following Naomi’s win in the quarterfinal match of the US Open.. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Continue to do well,” Fulton said, adding, “Continue to kick butt at the US Open.” In a separate video message, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery, Sr., said “God bless you for what you’re doing and you supporting our family with my son. My family really, really appreciates that, and God bless you.”
3. Naomi supports the Black Lives Matter movement.
She has become a leader in social advocacy, especially within her sport. She joined the athlete protest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23 (2020). After the Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their NBA playoff game, Naomi announced on social media that she wouldn’t play in her semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open.
“Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman,” she wrote in an Instagram post about her decision in August 2020. “And as a black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis. I don’t expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction.” As a result of her stance, the tournament paused play for the day her match was scheduled.
4. Naomi moved to New York at the age of three.
Naomi was born in Osaka, Japan on October 16, 1997, to a Japanese mother, Tamaki, and a Haitian father, Leonard Max Francois. After moving to Long Island, NY, Naomi made the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center grounds her second home. “I used to play here [in New York] when I was a little kid, so these courts aren’t new to me,” she told the US Open in 2018. “New York is very nostalgic. When I come here I always have memories of when I was a kid,” Naomi said, recalling, “Sometimes I walk down the streets I walked down when I was a little kid. Everything feels so much smaller. It’s an interesting feeling. But every time I come here, I’m very happy.”
5. She has become a fashion icon.
Naomi has graced the covers of high-fashion/beauty magazines including, Allure. Additionally, she’s covered WSJ and ESPN magazines. The tennis star even has an impressive Instagram feed that contains a plethora of cool outfit photos. On Jan. 11, 2021, Naomi was announced as Louis Vuitton‘s newest House Ambassador. “Funny story: I first bought my mom a LV bag when I was 16 as a birthday present and it’s kinda been a tradition since. Do I call this a full circle moment? Yes,” she wrote next to this amazing photo of herself wearing LV clothing and accessories.