Serena Williams: Rising Tennis Star Naomi Osaka is "very dangerous"


Hall of Fame
NAOMI Osaka isn’t a name that sets bells of recognition going off inside most people’s heads. Yet.

The 18-year-old Japanese player is only a baby in terms of her professional tennis career, but she’s through to the third round of the Australian Open after beating Elina Svitolina 6-4 6-4 on Thursday.

That win, along with her first round upset over Donna Vekic, has attracted extra media attention for the WTA newcomer. But don’t worry, more journalists asking more questions doesn’t mean she’s just got more opportunities to tell us how she’s “taking it one day at a time” and that she’ll “keep working hard”.

No, the teenager has got some very different — and more importantly, very honest — things to say, and it’s why she’s bound to become a crowd favourite.

For instance, she’s not thinking too much about making it to the third round of a grand slam for the first time because “it freaks me out”, and she responded to a query about why she doesn’t show too much emotion on court by laughing and saying, “Just genetically my face is like this. I’m sorry.”

When she gave an insight into whether she is actually as composed as her poker face suggests during matches, her thoughts were just as funny.

“No. In my brain I’m going, ‘Oh, my God, why’ about like 90 per cent of the time,” said Osaka.

“But, you know, I feel like I try to smile sometimes just so I don’t throw my racquet.”

“So is your smile your version of a racquet throw?” a reporter asked.

“Wait, yeah. Wait, wait. Sometimes I’m like actually smiling,” she answered.

But don’t expect that smile to extend to any over-the-top reactions, even if she is enjoying a breakout tournament.


Osaka has made a bright start to her Australian Open campaign.Source:AFP

“I feel like there’s something wrong with me because I don’t get excited or anything that much.”

It’s this refreshing honesty and humility that will see her leave the Australian Open, if not with a trophy, then at least with plenty of new admirers.

While we’ve come to expect tantrums and excuses from the pin-up brigade of gen Y in people like Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios, Osaka is bucking the trend and — unsurprisingly — people like her for it.

That explains why so many Japanese fans have flocked to support the young woman on the court in Melbourne.

“There was a lot of Japanese people and they were actually cheering for me. So I was really happy,” Osaka said.

“I always think that they’re surprised that I’m Japanese. So like the fact that there was Japanese flags and stuff, it was, like, really touching.

And what does she put her popularity down to?

“I don’t know, actually. Maybe it’s because they can’t really pinpoint what I am, so it’s like anybody can cheer for me. I’m sorry, I don’t know.”

After her first-start win against Vekic, she was swarmed by Japanese journalists all wanting to get a piece of the rising star. But when the press officer called for questions in English first, Osaka looked around and asked, “English only?”


Her words off the court are as popular as her play on it.Source:AP

That’s because, although she was born in Osaka, her family moved to America when she was young and she now trains primarily in Florida — meaning that while she can understand a fair bit of Japanese, she’s not as confident in speaking it.

But her father reportedly opted to see her play under the Japanese flag — she had a choice between that and the US on account of her dual passport — and judging by her results, the right decision was made.

Two years ago she upset Aussie Sam Stosur in the first round of a tournament in Stanford, and in the last 12 months she’s improved her world ranking from 250 to 127.

She booked her spot at the year’s first major after winning all three of her qualifying matches, and is noted for her big serve.

She hasn’t just won over the crowd, but fellow players too. Serena Williams is the biggest name in women’s tennis, and was impressed by what she saw of Osaka.

“I have seen her play,” Serena said on Monday.

“She’s really young and really aggressive. She’s a really good, talented player. Very dangerous.”

Who knows, perhaps Osaka will have the chance to show Williams just how dangerous she can be if the two get the chance to go head-to-head later on in the tournament.\



Hall of Fame
Kinda is considering sharapova was the last teen to win a slam at Us open 06 at 19. The tour has moved away from teen slam winners in womens tennis


I can't wait to see how she plays against Azarenka. She looked really good against Svitolina. If can play well against Vika the way Vika is playing right now, that will be amazing to see.