After winning the Grand Slam tittle at the 2018 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open, Naomi Osaka became the world’s No. 1 player in women’s tennis. She was the first Asian player to reach this top ranking.

Naomi Osaka grew up in the US but has Japanese nationality and represents Japan on the court (her father is from Haiti and her mother is from Japan). She started playing tennis at the age of 3 and was the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title, and became the first Asian tennis player to reach the world’s No. 1 rank.

Early Life and Family

Naomi Osaka was born in Osaka City, Osaka, Japan, on October 16, 1997. Her father Leonard Maxime Francois and her mother Tamaki Osaka met in Sapporo, Japan, in the 1990s. When her mother’s family knew she was involved with a Haitian man, they disagreed, but Tamaki and Francois still decided to marry and moved to the city of Osaka. Naomi and her sister Mari, who was born 18 months before her birth, were given their mother’s last name with the hope of an easier life in Japans.

Seeing Venus and Serena Williams at the 1999 French Open and learning how their father had trained them, her father Francois was inspired to follow a similar path with his daughters. When Osaka was 3 years old, her family left Japan for the US, settled in Long Island with her father’s parents, and the sisters began playing tennis. Then in 2006 the family moved to Florida, where they practiced tennis during the day with their father and were home-schooled at night. The mother worked to support their family during this time.

Osaka and Mari became close while playing on the courts together but wanting to bet Mari in a match that has motivated Osaka for years. Osaka told CNN that it took her 12 years to beat her sister and it might one of the biggest moments of her career after Mari had bet her probably more than 1,000 times over her childhood. Mari showed early promise as a player; however, injuries slowed her career.

Osaka’s family in Japan was initially skeptical that pursuing the sport would pay off but changed their minds since she became a success.