Naomi Osaka skips Wimbledon: the story of an athlete standing up for herself

Naomi is not playing
Two Grand Slams won, then two Grand Slams cancelled
No interviews
Mental health concerns
Sanctions from the Grand Slam organisers
Osaka:
More freedom for athletes
Interviews mostly benefit the media industry
Osaka is not alone
Next stop: Tokyo Olympics
Opinionated
'Before an athlete, I am a black woman'
Naomi Osaka and Black Lives Matter
US Open 2020
Australian Open 2021
Number 1 tennis player
Naomi Osaka: what's she like?
Naomi Osaka: parents
Tennis from an early age
Naomi in Osaka
Naomi and Mari Osaka
Naomi Osaka: early career
Newcomer of the year
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams
A difficult win at the 2018 US Open
Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams
Naomi Osaka's WTA ranking
Naomi Osaka: modest
Naomi: Haitian, American, and Japanese
Naomi speaks three languages
Naomi plays for Japan
A difficult time after the 2018 US Open
Depression and social anxiety
Not a natural public speaker
Elusive and shy
Naomi Osaka: private life
Naomi Osaka's boyfriend
Naomi Osaka's net worth
Naomi Osaka: most marketable
Naomi Osaka makes more money than Serena Williams
Ahead of Pogba, Rapinoe, Verstappen
Naomi's Barbie doll
Naomi's grandparents
Naomi Osaka in Haiti
Floss dance
Quirky and humorous
Naomi Osaka's record-breaking serve
Osaka's ace on Federer
Naomi is not playing

Japanese star athlete Naomi Osaka has made the news by not appearing in the media. She walked out of the French Open (Roland Garros) and has also announced that she won't be playing at yet another Grand Slam tournament: Wimbledon.

 

Two Grand Slams won, then two Grand Slams cancelled

Osaka, the current WTA number 2 and the reigning champion in the US ánd Australian Open, is taking a break to be with her family before she goes to Japan for the Summer Olympics. What is the cause of her withdrawal?

No interviews

It began with Roland Garros, the most recent Grand Slam that started in late May 2021. Osaka had started the French tournament like any other, except for letting the organization know that she would not be doing any press conferences after the matches.

 

Mental health concerns

The tennis star cited mental health reasons for her decision not to do certain press conferences. She explained that sometimes the questions of journalists after a match threw her off balance and interfered with her concentration during the tournament.

Sanctions from the Grand Slam organisers

When Osaka missed her first press conference early on in the tournament, the organisers of Roland Garros immediately reacted with a $15,000 fine for violating the 'contractual media obligations' and 'code of conduct' that tennis players have to follow if they want to participate in a Grand Slam. They also threatened with more sanctions, including bans from future Grand Slam tournaments.

Osaka: "OK bye"

The athlete's response was to withdraw from Roland Garros altogether. "I never wanted to be a distraction," she wrote apologetically on Twitter, but she also hinted that she found the press conference obligation "quite outdated" and added that she had offered a compromise that the Grand Slam organization had not accepted: to answer questions on court whenever she could and to do extensive interviews after the tournament.

More freedom for athletes

Osaka's coach, the Belgian Wim Fissette, told the German publication Der Spiegel that the tennis star "wants to bring about change" with her press boycott. "In the United States, the subject is very topical at the moment, as athletes want more freedom in dealing with the press," Eurosport cited him from the interview.

Interviews mostly benefit the media industry

Fissette emphasized that Osaka "is not boycotting conferences 'for herself alone,' but is 'concerned with fundamental issues - she wants to bring about change.'" What she would like to see differently, is that athletes shouldn't always have to show up, whether they feel up to it or not, just to provide the media with quotes and images for their (often commercial) media broadcasts.

Osaka is not alone

After she announced her withdrawal from Roland Garros, Naomi Osaka immediately received encouraging messages of a great number of athletes and celebrities. Usain Bolt, Venus Williams, Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens, Lewis Hamilton and Jordin Sparks were only a few of the many celebs showing their support on Instagram. Pop star P!nk wrote on Twitter that she was "proud" of Naomi Osaka and tennis icon Billie Jean King tweeted that she'd made a "brave" decision.

Next stop: Tokyo Olympics

Wimbledon would have started on June 28 for Naomi Osaka. Now the fans will have to wait until July 23, the opening date of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, to see the tennis star appear on behalf of her native country Japan.

Opinionated

Osaka grew up in the United States as a Japanese citizen with Haitian roots. She's very American in her tastes and friends, and she speaks out about topics that many Americans care about. While she may appear shy in front of journalists, Osaka has strong opinions about politics, mental health issues, and racism.

'Before an athlete, I am a black woman'

During the 2020 US Open, which took place while all over the countries Black Lives Matter protests were being held, she tweeted: "Before I am an athlete, I am a black woman." She felt she could not ignore what was going on off the court.

(Image: @naomiosaka, Twitter)

Naomi Osaka and Black Lives Matter

During the 2020 US Open, Naomi Osaka wore safety masks with the names of victims of American police violence on them. Each match she had a different name on her mask, starting with 'Breonna Taylor.' After her first game she announced that she had seven masks. "It's quite sad that seven isn't enough given the number of names (of people killed). Hopefully, I'll make the final and you can see them all."

(Images: IG @naomiosaka)

US Open 2020

She did make it to the final and won the US Open for the second time in her career. The first time had been in 2018. With her victory in the American tournament, Naomi Osaka consolidated her third place on the world tennis ranking for women.

Australian Open 2021

In early 2021, after winning the Australian Open for a second time as well, Osaka climbed to number two. Only the Australian Ash Barty is ahead of her.

 

Number 1 tennis player

Obviously, Naomi Osaka is one of the best tennis players in the world. In addition, she is number one in a category other than the WTA rankings. According to Forbes, she is the highest-paid female athlete in the world.

Naomi Osaka: what's she like?

An explosive athlete on the tennis court, Osaka is known for her muscle power, a record-winning serve, and her endurance. And now we know her for her activism. But what else is behind Osaka's enigmatic, and at times quirky, appearance?

Naomi Osaka: parents

Naomi was born on October 16, 1997 in Japan. Her mother is Japanese and her father Haitian. She has an older sister, Mari, who also plays tennis professionally.

 

Tennis from an early age

At a very young age, Naomi and her sister started playing tennis, trained by their father. His great inspiration were the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams. He wanted his daughters to become just like them.

Naomi in Osaka

Naomi spent her first three years in Japan; then the family moved to New York in the U.S. They decided to give the children their mother's last name: Osaka.

 

Naomi and Mari Osaka

Mari is holding the prize on this photo of the two sisters. "Back when we swapped personalities," Naomi writes on Instagram. Mari Osaka is an excellent player and Naomi always expresses the pride she feels for her sister. Mari's highest position on the WTA ranking was 280 in 2018.

Naomi Osaka: early career

Like Venus and Serena's father, Naomi's father had no experience playing tennis himself. They say he taught his daughters with help of instruction guides and dvds.

Newcomer of the year

Naomi played her first professional tennis game in 2013, when she was 15 years old. By 2016 she had made it to the top 50 female tennis players in the world. She was named the "newcomer of the year."

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams

In 2018, she beat her big idol, 23-time champion Serena Williams, in a nerve-racking US Open final. She won the match and gained her first grand slam title that day. In fact, she was the first Japanese player to ever win a grand slam singles tournament.

A difficult win at the 2018 US Open

The match against Williams had a bitter aftertaste though. Naomi's famous opponent argued heatedly with the umpire and called him a thief and a sexist.

Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams

Naomi was thrilled to win the tournament, but she felt bad about the incident with Serena Williams. Her tears after the game were not just from happiness. She later called the dramatic match "bittersweet" and "not the happiest memory."

Naomi Osaka's WTA ranking

After winning the US Open, Naomi made it to the top 10 of women's tennis players. When she won the Australian Open in early 2019, Naomi reached the mythical position of number 1 in the WTA ranking.

Naomi Osaka: modest

A powerful presence on the court, Naomi can be very modest when she's not playing. Bleacher Report asked her about beating the Williams sisters. "Sorry," she said, "I just feel it's something I'd have to be apologetic about." Why? "I still want Serena and Venus to be the main guys."

Naomi: Haitian, American, and Japanese

Like the Williams sisters, Naomi has long had the American nationality, but she also has a Japanese passport. In order to play for Japan at the 2020 Olympics (now postponed to 2021), Osaka decided to renounce her U.S. citizenship.

Naomi speaks three languages

Beside English, the athlete speaks Creole, the language of her Haitian grandparents with whom she grew up in New York. From her mom, she learned some Japanese. She cannot speak it very well, but she understands it when people talk in Japanese to her.

Naomi plays for Japan

When she was a teenager, the American tennis association invited her to join the U.S. team. But she declined. The Osakas chose to represent Japan at international tournaments. "Naomi and her sister always felt Japanese," her father says.

A difficult time after the 2018 US Open

After the Australian Open of 2019, it took the young athlete a while to get another big win. She dropped from the first to the fourth place of the WTA ranking. Now, in the wake of the Roland Garros dispute, Naomi Osaka has opened up about her mental health problems in those years.

Depression and social anxiety

"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018," the tennis star wrote on Twitter. "I have had a really hard time coping with that. Anyone that knows me knows that I'm introverted, and anyone that's seen me at tournaments will notice that I'm often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety."

Not a natural public speaker

"Though the tennis press has always been kind to me (and I wanna apologize especially to all the cool journalists who I may have hurt), I am not a natural public speaker and get huge waves of anxiety before I speak to the world's media," she continued her statement on Twitter. "I get really nervous and find it stressful to always try to engage and give you the best answers I can."

Elusive and shy

When Naomi's former coach Sascha Bajin met her for the first time, he assumed she was "a little bit more of a diva because she didn't talk much." The tennis player didn't look him in the eyes much either, he added in an interview with the US Open organizers in 2018. But that turned out the be just shyness. Naomi is absolutely not arrogant, he assured them.

Naomi Osaka: private life

When not playing tennis, Naomi likes to take pictures for her social media accounts, play 'Overwatch', and climb rocks or bike in the desert. She also has a bunch of lucrative sponsor contracts with photo shoots and other commercial activities.

Naomi Osaka's boyfriend

Naomi has a boyfriend: the American rapper YBN Cordae. She showed him to her Instagram followers in the summer of 2019. A year later, she congratulated him for his birthday on the same platform, saying: "I always feel so lucky to be in your life and to be continuously learning from you. I‘m so grateful that I can talk to you about anything and ask for advice (cause you know I need all the help I can get lol)."

Naomi Osaka's net worth

Osaka is making a good living from the prize money and sponsorships surrounding her tennis games. In 2019, she had an estimated net worth of $11 million. By 2020, Forbes reported, she made $34.7 million thanks to sponsorships with Nike, Nissan, and Proctor & Gamble.

Naomi Osaka: most marketable

Thanks to her looks, with the characteristic curly hair, and her grand slam successes at a young age, Naomi is considered a very marketable athlete. At the age of 23, she is now making more money than any female athlete ever.

These are the four highest-paid female athletes (for now)

Naomi Osaka makes more money than Serena Williams

In 2019, she was considered the second most marketable female athlete in the world, after Serena Williams, with $16 million in endorsements. But by 2020, she surpassed the $25 million of Williams's endorsements, making her the number one in earnings.

Ahead of Pogba, Rapinoe, Verstappen

For athletes, 2020 was disastrous, Forbes reports. The coronavirus pandemic makes international tournaments impossible and even caused the Tokyo Olympics to be cancelled entirely. Still, Osaka is estimated to stay ahead of football players like Paul Pogba and Meghan Rapinoe, or Formula 1 racers Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen.

Naomi's Barbie doll

Naomi has her own Barbie doll version. It "feels surreal," she says on Instagram, "because I played with barbies as a kid, never imagined to have one modeled after me."

Naomi's grandparents

While Naomi represents Japan on the international tennis courts, she is an unusual Japanese woman. In her homogeneous home country they would call someone like Naomi a hafu, or half-Japanese. Her Japanese grandparents did not actually approve her mother's choice of a Haitian man at first. It would take 15 years of separation before her mom and her grandparents were on speaking terms again.

Naomi Osaka in Haiti

Naomi also connects with her Haitian roots. Her parents built a school there in the late 1990s, and the athlete has promised to donate the endorsement for her Barbie version to the school.

Floss dance

But she is also very funny. One time she did the floss dance on Shibuya, the busiest crossing of Tokyo, after she had lost a bet.

Quirky and humorous

She also became known for her dry humour when she gave a victory speech after winning a tournament in 2018. "Um, hello ... I'm Naom ... oh never mind," she said goofily before stating that "This is probably going to be the worst acceptance speech of all time."

Naomi Osaka's record-breaking serve

Naomi has one of the most powerful serves in history of tennis. It can reach 125 miles an hour (200km/h).

Osaka's ace on Federer

At the 2018 Hopman Cup, where she represented Japan in a mixed double game with Yuichi Sugita, she made a legendary appearance. One of her lightning serves went completely past Roger Federer.

"Let me handle my business"

Naomi Osaka takes her motto from the rapper Jay-Z: "I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man. Let me handle my business," she tells her Instagram followers.

 

Read: These millionaire athletes lost all their money

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