By NAN Sports Editor
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Mar. 23, 2018: Just in case you missed it, that was a Caribbean roots tennis player who ousted 23-times grand slam champion Serena Williams in the first round of the Miami Open on Wednesday. Here are 10 things to know about this rising star:
1: She is 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, the child of a Haitian father and Japanese mother.
2: She was named after the Japanese city in which she was born on Oct. 16, 1997 – Osaka on the island of
3: She moved to the US at the age of three and currently resides in Florida and began training predominantly there with her father. But she also spent some time in Japan with coaches from the Japanese Tennis Association.
4: When she began to develop into a top-rate tennis player a few years ago, her father, Leonard Francois, chose the JPA over the United States Tennis Association because of Osaka’s dual passport. She has played under the Japanese flag ever since and is one of the country’s most highly touted rising stars even though she barely speaks the language.
5: She made her breakthrough on the WTA Tour in 2014, when she qualified as a 406th-ranked 16-year-old for the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California, and beat former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in the first round. At the 2016 Australian Open, Osaka came through qualifying to reach the main draw and then defeated then No. 18 seed Elina Svitolina in straight sets.
6: Osaka arrived at Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Miami Open unseeded because of her No. 44 ranking and moved up to No. 22 Sunday after a win and with a $1.3 million check, nearly double her career earnings.
7: Her biggest upset came on Wednesday, with a 6-3 6-2 victory over Williams in the first round of the Miami Open. Osaka was able to break Williams after a back-and-forth deuce battle to take the first set, with her big serve and relentless return game proving even stronger in the second as she broke to move 3-1 ahead and never looked back.
8: The win sends Osaka into a second round showdown against world number four Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. On the victory she said: “I was extremely nervous coming on to the court. I don’t know if anybody knows this but Serena is my favorite player. So just playing against her is kind of like a dream for me. I’m very grateful I was able to play her and it is even better that I was able to win.”
9: Osaka’s win was her latest against one of the biggest names in the sport, coming hot on the heels of victories over former grand slam champion Maria Sharapova, fifth seed Karolina Pliskova and world number one Simona Halep in Indian Wells.
10: She is a hit with fans – both in Japan and globally. In 2015, she was voted by fans from around the world to participate in the Rising Stars Invitational in Singapore, a showcase event put on by the WTA of players 23 and under. She won the tournament, where she met her other idol Venus Williams.
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