Naomi dreams big

Naomi Osaka, one of the four competing at the WTA Rising Stars Invitational, shared her experience as a professional tennis player with CHIJ Secondary School's tennis players.
The New Paper

SINGAPORE - Away from the court, Naomi Osaka, who turned 18 last Friday, draws plenty of attention because of her exotic looks.

She stands at an imposing 1.80 metres, has dark skin, but also sports soft Asian facial features.

That's because her father is Haitian and her mother is Japanese.

Naomi (left), who is in Singapore for the WTA Rising Stars Invitational that begins today at the OCBC Arena, is slowly garnering attention for her on-court exploits, as well.

She shot to fame in July last year when she beat 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round of the Stanford Classic in California.

During the match, which Naomi won 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5, she delivered a staggering serve that was timed at 193kmh.

Her power and build have invited comparisons with her idol, American superstar Serena Williams, who is widely regarded as the greatest female player of all time.

When The New Paper asked her on the sidelines of a school visit to CHIJ Toa Payoh (Secondary) yesterday what she hopes to achieve in her tennis career, Naomi raised eyebrows when she said that her ultimate dream is to surpass the achievements of the 34-year-old Williams, who has won 21 Grand Slam singles titles.

Honoured "Greatness. I feel honoured (that I'm compared to Williams)," the Haitian-Japanese said, with a smile.

"(But) at a certain point, you kinda want to surpass a person you're being compared to.

"So I hope to achieve that."

Noami is currently ranked 202nd in the achieved a career-high of No. 156 three months ago.

She will need a spectacular couple of years on court if she is to achieve her target of becoming world No. 1 at the age of 20 - Williams' age when she first reached rankings summit in 2001.

In Stanford last year, Naomi got the chance to meet her idol when she saw her in the players' lounge, but was too scared to start a conversation.

They ended up meeting anyway, and the teenager got a prized selfie.

She is the youngest of the four players - the others are France's Caroline Garcia, 22, Tunisian Ons Jabeur, 21, and China's Zhu Lin, 21 - competing at the WTA Rising Stars Invitational.

Born in Osaka, Japan, Naomi moved to the United States aged three and currently trains at Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

She hasn't forgotten her Asian roots.

Counting the Japan Women's Open and Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo last month as the highlight of her year, she said: "Kei Nishikori has really helped (Japanese tennis), but he's on the men's side.

"So I kinda think we need a Japanese woman (to blaze a trail), and I hope I can be that.

"I don't really play like any other Japanese girl, so yeah, I hope to be able to move (the game) forward."

Factfile

Name: Naomi Osaka

Age: 18

Date of birth: Oct 16, 1997

Height: 1.80m

Weight: 69kg

Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: US$77,991 ($108,351)

Career-high singles ranking: 156 (July 27, 2015)

Career-high doubles ranking: 1,269 (Dec 1, 2014)

WTA singles/doubles titles: 0


This article was first published on Oct 22, 2015.
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