Naomi Osaka Offers Advice to Youth Athletes at Her Childhood Courts in Queens: 'Be a Better You'
Naomi Osaka had a full-circle moment when she gave advice to aspiring athletes on the same tennis courts she trained on as a kid.
Ahead of this year's US Open, the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam champ visited Detective Keith L. Williams Park in New York City's Jamaica, Queens — the same tennis courts that she played on during her childhood. On Thursday, Osaka helped unveil the newly refurbished courts that now include colorful designs from the athlete and her sister Mari.
By partnering with sports drink brand BODYARMOR LYTE, Osaka was able to improve and revamp the facilities to give back to the community where she got her start.
"[My] biggest piece of advice," she told the local young athletes in attendance for an afternoon tennis clinic, "I would say [is] you definitely have to enjoy what you're doing. For me, it's taken a long time, but just being grateful to be there or to be here; just to be present."
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"I know there's gonna be a lot of days where your coach is annoying you — my dad was my coach and he has annoyed me for the longest," Osaka continued with a laugh. "And, you know, you don't want to listen to them and stuff. But at the end of the day, you should have people around you that have your best interests, and everyone arounds you loves you and they care for you."
"I would just say, while you're playing, have love for the sport. Even if you're not playing, just want to be a better you at the end of the day," concluded Osaka to cheers from listeners at the LYTE Up the Courts event, which also saw special appearances from Ally Love, NBA star Donovan Mitchell and WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu.
In a press release, Osaka explained why it was meaningful to overhaul her old stomping grounds, also with help from the artists at Masterpiece NYC.
"I've seen firsthand how playing sports can have a positive impact on kids' lives. It's been extremely gratifying to collaborate with BODYARMOR on revitalizing the very same tennis courts that I grew up playing on," she said. "And the fact that BODYARMOR is also a Queens-based company makes this initiative even cooler and more meaningful to me. The update to these courts means so much — local high schools use these for practice and competitions, the community comes here to play. The benefits will be long-lasting."
Osaka recently spoke with PEOPLE about preparing for next week's US Open, which is held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, between Aug. 30 and Sept. 12.
"I love playing at the US Open as it brings me back to Queens, where I grew up training and it feels like I am always coming back to a place with great memories," she said.