Naomi Osaka is currently ranked as the second-best women's singles player in the entire world
It was a massive feat for the 21-year-old. But for Osaka, not being the best was never an option.
In the cover story for Allure‘s August issue, the athlete explains what inspires her drive.
“My parents weren’t exactly the richest, so what am I going to do? I’m not really the smartest. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life, you know? So there’s nothing I can imagine myself doing,” Osaka said. “It’s either I have to be the best or I’m going to be homeless.”
Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father. She first picked up a tennis racket at 3 years old, just after her family moved to Long Island, New York.
Was her path decided for her?
“I think in the beginning, yes, for sure, but as I grew up, you know. … I started thinking that those dreams, they’re things that I really want to accomplish,” Osaka said. “So yeah, I think it was more like a push.”
That push helped Osaka earn success, including her first U.S. Open title in 2018 and her second Grand Slam title at the 2019 Australian Open.
And despite a loss a Wimbledon, Osaka is still ranked as the second-best women’s singles player in the entire world, behind Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.
Though she pushes herself to be the greatest, Osaka told Allure she does not consider herself better than any other tennis player at her level.
“There’s a certain point where talent isn’t useful anymore, and from there you’ve just got to want to win more than everyone else,” she said. “I think that’s something I noticed from an early age, so that’s what I’ve been fortunate with. I mean, the way that I grew up and the circumstances that sort of surrounded me kind of forced me to think that way.”
As for the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo — which will be Osaka’s first Games — she’s hoping to play for the Japanese team. “Definitely my intention is to play for Japan,” she said.
The August issue of Allure hits national newsstands on July 23.