Naomi Osaka Is the New Face of Women’s Tennis

Naomi+Osaka%3B+Photo+Credit+of+People.com

Naomi Osaka; Photo Credit of People.com

Monica Badolian, Staff Writer

The future of women’s tennis is now, and her name is Naomi Osaka. Osaka captured her fourth Grand Slam title in straight sets (6-4, 6-3) over Jennifer Brady in the women’s final of the Australian Open on Saturday, putting her in elite company at just 23 years old. She is only one behind notable names like Maria Sharapova (5) and Martina Hingis (5), and three behind the stately Venus Williams, with her fourth major (7). And, sadly for the other WTA tour competitors, Osaka seems to be just getting started. 

Her run to the Australian Open title included a straight-sets semi-final victory (6-3, 6-4) over Serena Williams, who has dominated women’s tennis since winning the US Open at the age of 17 in 1999. Williams became the first African American woman to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era with her victory over world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the 1999 Open final, showcasing what was to come over the next two decades. But it felt like the official passing of the torch when Osaka defeated Williams in straight sets in Australia this week.

Williams and Osaka have a lot in common. Osaka, like Williams, made history at the 2018 U.S. Open when she captured her first major title, ironically against Williams in the final. Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title with her 6-2, 6-4 victory. And it was clear that it wouldn’t be her last. Even though many people agree that Osaka is the new face of Women’s tennis, she seems to disagree. “As long as Serena’s here, I think she’s the face of women’s,” Osaka said. “Honestly I don’t feel that way (about being the new face),” she said, “There’s so many new people. I think I’m one of the new people.” Osaka makes sure to not let her victory shine over others. “I wasn’t taking it too seriously as a match,” the Japanese player admitted. “But it was fun to be able to hit her. I just tried to have fun and experiment a little.” 

Osaka went on to win the 2019 Australian Open and the 2020 US Open after that first major victory, before completing her fourth Grand Slam on Saturday. Her big resume is just lacking a French Open title and, perhaps, the ultimate prize in tennis, a Wimbledon title. Osaka’s best performances at Roland Garros and the All England Club have been the Round of 32 exits. Osaka hasn’t been able to progress beyond the first round, whether it’s on the clay courts in Paris or the grass surfaces in London. She is, without a doubt, the new queen of the hardcourts, having won two of the last three Australian and United States Opens.

Osaka, on the other hand, would need to win at least one French Open and Wimbledon title to become the norm in tennis. The question is, who will be her most serious competitor soon? Might it be Ashleigh Barty, a 24-year-old Australian who has won one major (the 2019 French Open)? How about Sofia Kenin, who won her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open last year at the age of 22? Regardless, with Williams approaching the end of an amazing career, the future of women’s tennis looks bright, and Osaka is at the summit.