Naomi Osaka is a professional tennis player who beat Serena Williams in the final of the U.S. Open on Saturday.
Osaka’s sister, Mari, is a professional tennis player. Together, the two sisters represent the three cultures they were raised with: American, Japanese, and Haitian.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Osaka’s Father, Leonard Francois, is Haitian-born, & Her Mother, Tamaki Osaka, Is Japanese
Osaka’s parents are from Haiti and Japan, respectively, a culture divide that apparently led to difficulties in the beginning of their romance. To The New York Times, Tamaki Osaka said that her father was furious when he found out she was romantically involved with a black man. Leonard Francois went to NYU before moving to Japan, where he subsequently met Tamaki.
For over a decade, Tamaki Osaka did not have contact with her family as a result of her relationship.
2. Both Naomi & Mari Osaka Took Their Mother’s Last Name Instead of Their Father’s
As a matter of convenience, both Naomi and Mari Osaka took their mother’s name because they were raised in Osaka, Japan, and it made their lives easier for issues like signing up at schools and renting apartments, according to The New York Times.
Mari Osaka can speak fluent Japanese, and Naomi can speak it partially.
The Osaka family moved to Fort Lauderdale when Naomi was three years old, though the girls have kept their mother’s last name.
3. Osaka’s Sister, Mari, Is a Professional Tennis Player, Too
Osaka’s sister Mari is a professional tennis player as well. In fact, Mari and Naomi Osaka have been compared to the Williams sisters on more than one occasion. In July 2018, W Magazine ran a feature titled, “Mari and Naomi Osaka Could Be the Next Venus and Serena Williams.”
In the article, Brooke Marine of W Magazine wrote, “Though Naomi has just been shockingly knocked out of the 16th round of Wimbledon, at just 20 years old, the tennis star has been a professional for nearly five years…Now, the Osaka sisters follow in the footsteps of Venus and Serena Williams, as two young sisters who are making waves in the field of professional tennis, and crushing their competition both on the court and on social media.”
Mari, who is Naomi’s older sister, is currently ranked #367 in the single’s rankings.
4. Leonard Francois Was Osaka’s First Tennis Trainer, & Idolizes Richard Williams
Leonard Francois began training Osaka when she was three years old, according to The New York Times. Though Francois has never been a tennis player himself, he cited Richard Williams, the father of the Williams sisters, as his inspiration for training his daughters.
He said, “The blueprint was already there. I just had to follow it.”
It looks like Francois’ strategy paid off: after all, Williams herself has previously described Osaka as “a really good, talented player. Very dangerous.”
5. Osaka Technically Represents the Country of Japan on the Court
Osaka explained to The New York Times that even though she’s lived in Florida since she was three years old, she made the decision to play tennis for Japan primarily because of funding opportunities: Japan had more money to sponsor her.
Of growing up in a multi-cultural heritage household, Osaka has said, “I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like.”
Of her Japanese culture, Osaka said, “Japanese culture? I love everything about it. . . . America, I live here. I train in Florida. . . . And Haiti, if you’ve ever met a Haitian person, they are really positive, and literally if you’re friends with them, then they will do anything for you. That’s something that is a really good trait, and I’m really happy that my grandparents and my dad’s side of the family is like that.”
Of playing Williams, Osaka has previously said that she hopes to emulate the famous tennis player. She said via USA Today, “I was really impressed by her and wanted to play like her when I was little. Well, I hope I’m starting to play like her now.”