Like many other players, the 23-year-old Naomi Osaka didn't play much tennis in 2020. The Japanese entered only four tournaments and saved the season after winning the US Open crown, lifting the third title from the last eight Majors!
Osaka is currently preparing for the new season in Adelaide, setting eyes on regaining the Australian Open title after losing it to Sofia Kenin 12 months ago. Speaking about her role modes, Naomi mentioned her family and Serena Williams, praising the 23-time Major champion and everything she has achieved.
Naomi and Serena played thrice in 2018 and 2019, with the youngster winning two matches. Naomi ousted Serena in Miami round-one in 2018 and that controversial US Open final six months later. Williams grabbed her only victory in Toronto 2019, beating Naomi in straight sets before retiring to Bianca Andreescu in the title clash.
As we already said, Osaka competed at only a couple of tournaments in 2020, losing in the Brisbane semi-final and the Australian Open third round to inspired Cori Gauff. Following a terrible Fed Cup loss to Sara Sorribes Tormo in February, Naomi had enough time to work on her game, with the coronavirus putting the entire season under the ice until August.
Returning to the court in New York, Osaka reached the final of the Premier 5 event in Cincinnati, battling past Karolina Muchova and Anett Kontaveit before giving Victoria Azarenka a walkover due to an injury.
Naomi Osaka said that Serena Williams is among her role models.
Competing on the same courts a week later, Osaka took down Misaki Doi and Marta Kostyuk to reach the US Open fourth round, playing on a high level against Anett Kontaveit and Shelby Rogers and advancing into the last four.
There, the Japanese battled past Jennifer Brady in three sets for the second US Open final in three years, with Victoria Azarenka waiting on the other side of the court, like in Cincinnati. Osaka scored a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 triumph in an hour and 53 minutes, overcoming a slow start to lift the second crown in New York in three years.
"I'm someone who grew up playing tennis and wanted to become good enough to play on a global scale, and somehow, I did it. My family will always be my number one influence, and I really admire Serena Williams. I have quite a few role models, actually.
Having many role models is great because you can draw traits from each of them and build your own ideal," Naomi Osaka said.