Naomi Osaka opens up on dark time when it was 'make it in tennis or be homeless'

Before becoming the highest-paid female athlete, Osaka experienced poverty.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Naomi Osaka opens up on dark time when it was 'make it in tennis or be homeless'
© Getty Images Sport - David Ramos

Naomi Osaka reveals there was a moment and time when she felt she would either have tp make it in pro tennis or end up homeless. Last year, Osaka landed on Forbes' No 1 in the highest-paid female athlete category - the Japanese earned $53.2 million through prize money and endorsement deals in 2022.

But before Osaka became the highest-paid female athlete in the world, she and her family were struggling to make ends meet. "My parents weren't exactly the richest, so what am I going to do? I'm not really the smartest. It's either I have to be the best or I'm going to be homeless," Osaka said in Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice, via The Daily Mail.

Osaka experienced poverty before becoming a multimillionaire star

Osaka's tennis journey started in 1999, when her father Leonard Francois watched the French Open and got impressed by the story of Serena and Venus Williams.

Francois instantly started thinking how great it would be if his daughters Naomi and Mari could do something similar. Living in a poor Haitian neighborhood in New York, the family made a plan - Francois would teach his daughters tennis while their mother Tamaki would go to work and put the food on the table.

During that time, Tamaki Osaka worked a few jobs but they were all low-pay office jobs. According to Ben Rothenberg - the author of the book - Naomi and Mari didn't have friends in childhood and their family didn't really have money to afford them things like ice skating or other nice things kids get to experience in childhood.

Later, the Osaka sisters moved to Florida, where they received tennis lessons from coaches who were promised to be paid later. According to the author of the book, Osaka's father later refused to pay those same coaches when his daughter became a major and wealthy tennis superstar, telling the coaches: "Get a lawyer."

Naomi Osaka
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