Although I didn’t get to the US Open in person this year, I watched it on TV over Labor Day Weekend and have been rushing home every night to catch the matches on ESPN.
- I’ve seen both interviewed numerous times on ESPN. They’re personable, smart, extremely funny, down-to-earth, a little bit awkward and so comfortable being themselves. How they learn to handle the pressure, stay mentally strong and yet reveal their vulnerabilities is beyond me.
- Naomi Osaka gave one of the funniest interviews about how she inner monologues while playing matches. This is not the original interview but she references it starting at around 3:15 on the video. Definitely worth watching.
In case you don’t have time to watch, here is the gist of it:
- “I’m thinking, Do not hit this down the line. Don’t go for it, right?’
- “Then there is another part of me that’s, like, ‘But if I hit this down the line, there is a 50/50 chance it will be a winner and you could win the point easy.’ So when she’s serving the ball, it’s like, ‘Ta, ta, ta, ta, ta,’ and I’m arguing with myself: ‘Do it, don’t do it, do it, don’t do it.’
- “Then the ball comes and I hit it down the line and it goes in the net. I’m, like, ‘Why did I do that?’ Yeah, that basically happens a lot.”
On Thursday night, Madison and she played each other in the semifinals and Naomi won . She will now face her idol, Serena on Saturday. We’ll see how that goes. She has defeated Serena once – but it was early in Serena’s comeback.
Read on below for more on Naomi and Madison – and follow them on Instagram, they both have great accounts!!
Only 20 years old, Naomi is Haitian-Japanese and represents Japan on the court.
- I had NOT been aware of her until this US Open although she’s beaten a string of major players recently including Maria Sharapova, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep AND Serena Williams.
- Naomi, whose father is Haitian, is the first Japanese woman since the start of the Open era to reach the U.S. Open semifinals and the first to reach any Grand Slam semifinal since Kimiko Date did it in 1996 at Wimbledon.
- Osaka, who lived in Japan until she was 3, started playing tennis in New York after her father saw the Williams sisters playing at the French Open in 1999 and decided to teach his daughters.
- Her multicultural identity includes three cultures and dual citizenship with Japan and the United States.
- She is based in Florida and trains at Evert’s academy in Boca Raton. She decided to play for Japan largely for financial reasons — the Japanese federation offered more support money than the U.S. Tennis Association.
- When not playing tennis, Naomi loves to play videogames. Her favorite is Overwatch.
She’s 23 (and an Aquarius). She grew up in Illinois. Both her parents are lawyers. She has two sisters, Hunter and Montana.
- She’s biracial (dad is black, mother is white). In researching her, there’s been a lot of to-do about the fact that she refuses to define herself by race, identifying as neither black nor white.
- She got into tennis (at age 5) because she loved the way Venus Williams dressed (not clear if that was on the court or in real life).
- She became a professional tennis player when she was 14.
- Her endorsement deals have included Nike, Evian, Orangetheory Fitness, and Wilson Sporting Goods.
- She’s currently dating American tennis player, Bjorn Fratangelo, and the relationship is now Insta official (pic below).
I’ve been a tennis fan for a long time and it’s fascinating to see how interesting the women’s side of tennis has become. It’s a microcosm of all the advances women have made in other areas of life.
Every generation has built on the previous one but the Williams sisters have definitely taken the game to another level. There is much more interest in the women’s matches than there was 20 years ago. For younger women coming up now, like Naomi and Madison, there is a new baseline of athleticism and power on display.
I’m very excited to watch the women’s finals later today. My money’s on Serena but nothing would make me happier than to see Naomi win.
Finally, an important question for the US Open organization: why are you scheduling all the major matches to end at 1 or 2am every single night? You’ve actually made many rabid tennis fans feel lucky NOT to be in the stands. We’d rather watch from the comfort of our beds because even the best seats in the house do not make up for not getting home until 3am or later. Move the matches up earlier in the day and stop this craziness.