Naomi Osaka’s father, Leonard Francois, taught his daughters Naomi and Mari to play tennis based off of the way Richard Williams taught his daughters, Serena and Venus, how to play as young girls.
In a profile of Naomi Osaka in The New York Times, Francois explained that he decided to get his two daughters involved in tennis after watching the Williams sisters perform in 1999; Naomi and Mari Osaka were just toddlers at the time.
According to a profile of Osaka in The New York Times wrote, Francois explained that he watched a broadcast of Venus and Serena playing at the French Open when they were 18 and 17 years old, respectively, and was fascinated when he learned that their father and trainer, Richard Williams, had never played tennis.
Francois then took the training plan of Williams and began to apply it to his own daughters. He said to the publication, “The blueprint was already there. I just had to follow it.”
Francois emulated Williams by teaching his daughters to play tennis on clay courts, the way the Williams sisters learned. He also moved his family to Florida and homeschooled his girls, just like Williams did.
Now, Osaka is considered to be one of the top rising stars in the women’s tennis universe. Here’s what you need to know about how Naomi Osaka’s Haitian-born father influences his daughter’s life:
Naomi Osaka Celebrates Her Father With Photos, From Time to Time
For her father’s birthday, Osaka wrote on Instagram, “Today is my dad’s birthday. I want to thank him for being the most positive influence in my life. Hopefully it’ll rub off on me one day ?❤️ (also my mom is in the pic because I don’t really have that many pics with just my dad oopssss ?)”
According to The New York Times, Francois’ training plan for his daughters included, instructional books, DVDs, and making his two daughters hit thousands of balls every day. Naomi Osaka said to The New York Times of her early training, “I don’t remember liking to hit the ball. The main thing was that I wanted to beat my sister. For her, it wasn’t a competition, but for me, every day was a competition. Every day I’d say, ‘I’m going to beat you tomorrow.’”
Richard Williams’ training plan was extremely rigorous; he revealed in an interview that he’d written a 70 page “manifesto” for his daughters’ training program before they were even born. He said to CTV’s Canada AM, “Before they were born, a lot people used to think I was crazy because I used to walk around with a sign, ‘number 1 girls in the world’ — so my expectations of my girls grew and grew.”
Francois doesn’t have much of a social footprint, but you can follow Naomi and Mari Osaka’s Instagram to catch glimpses of him from time to time.