Naomi Osaka breaks through to become the top-ranked female player in the world

Naomi Osaka will play in the U.S. Open as a teenager next month after already breaking into the top ten this year and finishing runner-up at the Pan Pacific Open. It’s been an impressive run for a player who was barely old enough to go to the movies when she made her breakthrough in August.

The 19-year-old from Japan joined her idol Serena Williams, who is pregnant with her first child, in a star-studded on-court ceremony at the women’s final of the U.S. Open. She spoke to Reuters about her love of tennis, whether tennis was and is about equal rights, and what it’s like watching the world watch tennis while she’s competing.

Q: The idea of playing professional tennis at a young age seems like something that might be impossible to achieve. What is your secret to being able to play at this level?

A: We live in a society where it’s ‘let them eat cake’ or ‘everything is given to you.’ But it’s not, you have to work for what you want. In tennis, it’s not always given to you, and that has always been my motto. People ask, ‘How do you train?’ I have a trainer, but, we kind of mix it up every day.

Q: The young Americans competing so well right now in the Women’s Open, such as Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, are American women. Do you think there’s a particular reason for that, and would you like to see more Asian players or women of all races in the top ten?

A: First of all, I don’t think it’s about race. It’s more about mentality and the attitude you have toward sports and how you approach it. Everyone is different and I really hope the world does see more diverse people playing tennis. I want to see someone in the women’s top ten that looks different than me. I would love to be part of it, that’s for sure.

Q: During your young career, you have never won a WTA Tour title, something that only a few women of your age have managed. You have played against Serena, who has 12 majors, but never won a slam. Do you plan to win a major?

A: I’ve always said that the top 10, if I can make it there, is a dream. In my fifth year, a lot has happened. I wasn’t winning matches, but I’m really grateful for the support that I’ve been given from fans and my family. This year, it has been a big season for me and I feel like I’m in a good position. I’m ready.

Q: We are so close to the U.S. Open right now. What are you looking forward to about that tournament?

A: It’s my first time to play in the finals of an elite tournament, that’s how big a deal it is. Being there and playing Serena in the finals is an honor. Next month, I’m really going to get to play on Arthur Ashe Stadium. I’m really excited. I’m just hoping to play as well as I can, like I’ve been playing the past few months.

Read the full interview here.


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