Osaka on what she hopes to achieve beyond Grand Slams: ‘I want to see the world get a little better’

LOS ANGELES — In just nine matches since becoming the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam in five decades, Naomi Osaka has already accomplished what years of playing and practicing has meant little: Her rise from youth tennis at the University of Michigan to the teen star of tennis now is regarded not only as good, but fairytale.

Osaka’s dramatic four-set first-round upset of Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final, only a month after Williams’ birth, was instantly hailed in many circles, and now in a column she wrote for The Athletic, the 18-year-old was asked about what she hoped to accomplish after so much unexpected rise.

“I hope to see the state of the world get a little better, a little more human. That’s what I would really like,” Osaka said Sunday before returning to Paris, where she played her first Masters 1000 event. “Because right now there’s a lot of power. There’s a lot of racism. There’s a lot of sexism, and I think the world, as we all know, is kind of going in the wrong direction. And I’d really like to see it turn around a little bit.”

A dual citizen of Japan and the United States, Osaka will return to Flushing Meadows for the doubles match Monday alongside Madison Keys and said she remains hopeful that Williams will one day return. Osaka said she was planning to meet the former world No. 1 Tuesday in New York, but added: “My goal is to see her. To meet her and say, ‘Hi.’”

Osaka will graduate from high school in 2019 and try to make the transition to professional tennis as quickly as possible. The year 2019 will mark the 100th anniversary of Naoko Sawamatsu becoming the last Japanese female player to win a Grand Slam tournament, but with her strong performance at the US Open, Osaka is one of the more anticipated players on the circuit.

“This is my year!” she wrote in her column. “Now I am back in the bright lights of the media and when the result comes out, a whole other world opens. Everyone knows who I am, everywhere. And all the things I said before feel silly. I get to live my dream.

“But more than all of that, I get to live the dream of my entire life. So I hope to see a lot of fan happiness in the future. And I hope this can help make a change.”

A viral video of the girl weeping during her post-match press conference Saturday night at Flushing Meadows has gone viral, but Osaka said the support has been nothing but positive. Asked if she’s received any negative comments in the midst of the attention that is playing out over the next four days, Osaka hesitated.

“Yeah, people say mean things,” she said. “But, you know, I’ve been reading all of the positive comments on social media from people that love my tennis. And I’m glad that people are loving me.

“I want people to know that I’m here and I have no bad intentions. I’m not trying to be a mean person. But I am a good player, so I’m just trying to win matches.”

As for her future plans, Osaka said she’ll begin work at U.S.TA headquarters in East Hampton, N.Y., for the rest of the season, with hopes of making the Fed Cup team as a singles player and possibly entering the highest-level players’ tour as a doubles specialist.

“But there’s no telling when I can go back to the Open,” she said. “So for right now, I’m going to try to win my matches and not have to worry about anything else.”

Leave a Comment