Ranked as the world’s No. 2 women’s tennis player, Naomi Osaka has not had an easy journey. The superstar athlete is just 23 years old, yet has already accrued four Grand Slam champion titles and a lifetime of experiences that place her at the fore of her sport. Speaking to Vogue Hong Kong, the tennis player reflects on what she has achieved so far and what motivates her ahead of the Toyko 2020 Olympics, where Osaka will represent Japan in the tennis division.
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You may lose more than you win, be told 'no' more than 'yes' but if you stay the path, and put in the work you can be the best version of [yourself].
Although female athletes have had to endure a separate set of obstacles to their male counterparts, speaking on her challenges Naomi Osaka says she has never looked at them as a matter of gender but rather mental pressure.
“Tennis is a solo sport, you cannot rely on a teammate when you’re having an off day. It’s about trusting yourself and the work you put in prior to the match,” she explains, but acknowledges that it can be hard for female athletes out on the playing field. “You may lose more than you win, be told ‘no’ more than ‘yes’ but if you stay the path, and put in the work you can be the best version of [yourself].”
Osaka’s growing popularity hasn’t just made her a role model for young athlete hopefuls everywhere, it’s also recently earned the star her own doll with Mattel, appropriately released as a Barbie Role Model. Despite the constant buzz that surrounds Osaka, on and off the court she has always gone at her own pace. With her quiet public image, she has never been one to open up to much, although when she does you can count Osaka for conveying honesty with sophistication.
The general public’s interest in Osaka is certainly attributed to the fact that few are as charismatic and influential as she is at her young age. When asked about how fame has impacted her, the athlete demonstrated a surprising moment of vulnerability. “It isn’t easy,” Osaka admits, “Having so many eyeballs on you, each with an opinion about who they think you are without knowing you first. I try to surround myself with people that know me best. At the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own and [that of] the people close to you.”
Strong, like-minded athletes such as Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, and Serena Williams inspire Osaka to work hard on and off the court. And with the pandemic usurping the traditional schedule of many sporting events, the ambitious star has had to retrain her gears and learn to slow down. “It’s amazing how much you can actually accomplish even when you aren’t always on the go.”
With the Olympics ahead of her, Osaka reminds herself, “It is worth it to fight for what I believe in,” and it is her endless spirit to carry on that makes the tennis player a true indicator of a Woman In Sports.