Meet Naomi Osaka, Tennis' New Champ

Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images.
On Saturday, Naomi Osaka beat Serena Williams at the U.S. Open, earning her first Grand Slam title at just 20 years old. It was a controversial match after Williams sustained three code violations, and as a result, Osaka was robbed of the opportunity to properly celebrate her victory. But Osaka, who has fan-girled over Williams since she was a young kid, remained poised. "For me, I'm always going to remember the Serena that I love. It doesn't change anything for me," she said in a post-game press conference. "She was really nice to me at the net and on the podium. I don't really see what would change."
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Fanfare and disputes aside, Osaka played an amazing game of tennis and more than deserved her win. She's beloved by fans for her shy humor, genuine naïveté, and fierceness on the court. In May, GQ called her "the coolest thing in tennis," and she could become the GOAT in her own right. Cinching the Grand Slam this weekend catapulted Osaka's ranking, and she's now the No. 7 women's tennis player in the world.
But if you’re just becoming acquainted with Osaka, here are some fast facts about this phenom — tennis' new champ.
She plays for Japan, but grew up in Florida.
Osaka is biracial: her mother is Japanese and her father is Haitian. She was born in Osaka Japan, and when she was three years old, her family moved to Long Island, New York. Now she has dual citizenship and splits her time between Florida and New York for training. "I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like," she told the New York Times Magazine. This victory at the U.S. Open made her the first Japanese player, man or woman, to ever win a Grand Slam title.
Her dad was inspired by the Williams family.
Osaka's father, Leonard Maxime Francois, didn't come from a tennis background, but became a fan of the Williams sisters while watching the 1999 French Open, according to the New York Times Magazine. He heard about Richard Williams' coaching methods, and he saw an in for his two daughters. "The blueprint was already there," Francois told the New York Times Magazine. "I just had to follow it."
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She hits balls crazy fast.
Osaka’s forehand shot — in which a player hits a tennis ball with their palm facing forward — travels more than 100 miles per hour. Most professional women tennis players hit a forehand shot that clocks in at around 70 miles per hour, so Osaka’s speed and power is her secret weapon on the court.
She has a Finsta for travel photos.
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Osaka revealed that she has a secret Instagram account that she uses to post photos from her travels, called @nao.chiii. While her main account might be where you'll find shots of her casually shaking hands with Williams or crushing it at the gym, her Finsta is full of artsy snaps and updates from the road.
You may see her in Tokyo 2020.
For the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016, Osaka was ranked 87th, missing the cut-off for the team. But with the Tokyo Summer Olympics just two years away, all eyes are on Osaka to take home gold for Japan.
She's serious about her workout playlist.
Osaka told the New York Times Magazine that she's kind of superstitious about her music choices: "If I win, I keep listening to the same song. I only change it when I lose," she said. As for what tracks you'll find on her playlist, leading up to the U.S. Open, she was listening to Kendrick Lamar, and she's also a big Beyoncé fan.
She’s into video games.
When Osaka isn't on the court, she's often playing video games, and one of her favorites is Overwatch, she told GQ. But Osaka initially won the hearts of fans and nerds when she made a reference to Pokemon in a press conference, telling reporters that her goal was, "To be the very best, like no one ever was. That’s a Pokemon quote, I’m sorry," she said. "That’s the Pokemon theme song. But, yeah, to be the very best, and go as far as I can go." We stan an icon.
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