While Naomi Osaka is awaiting her Western & Southern Open final against Victoria Azarenka, let’s take a minute to enjoy some super cute childhood photos of the two-time Grand Slam champion, as part of my Little Tennis Stars series, and share the story of her multi-ethnic background.
Naomi Osaka was born in 1997 in Osaka, Japan, after her parents relocated to the city from the island of Hokkaido where they met. The reason for the move was the fact that Naomi’s grandparents on her Japanese mother’s side didn’t initially accept her relationship with the man from Haiti, Leonard Francois, who visited Japan while he was a college student in New York.
The story of Naomi’s multicultural background doesn’t end there, as the family moved to New York when the future tennis star was just three years old:
My dad’s Haitian, so I grew up in a Haitian household in New York. I lived with my grandma. And my mom’s Japanese and I grew up with the Japanese culture too, and if you’re saying American, I guess because I lived in America, I also have that too.
After growing up in New York, Naomi moved to Florida when she was eight or nine years old:
I never know what to do when someone asks me where I’m from. I just say FL, because saying Japan starts an unnecessary conversation.
Naomi has always represented Japan at tennis tournaments, while in 2019 she gave up her US citizenship as Japanese law states that people with dual citizenship have to choose just one before turning 22.
Naomi’s elder sister Mari also players tennis professionally and her career-high singles ranking was No.280. The girls were initially coached by their father, who was inspired by Richard Williams’ approach that created legends Serena and Venus. Richard had never played tennis but developed a plan that made his daughters one of the sport’s greatest champions.
Leonard Francois, who introduced his children to tennis when they settled in the United States, said:
The blueprint was already there. I just had to follow it.
The rest of this story is still being developed. So far, Naomi Osaka has won the 2018 US Open and the 2019 Australian Open, as well as three WTA titles, occupied the No.1 singles ranking, and enjoyed the status of being the highest-earning female athlete in the world, boasting lucrative contracts with Nike, Yonex, Nissan Motor, Shiseido, Citizen Watch, All Nippon Airways (ANA), and others.
For more Naomi’s childhood photos, visit the post that I made when she won her maiden major title. (all the photos are from Naomi’s social media profiles)