OLYMPIC GAMES | TENNIS

Who are Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka's parents?

Japan's Naomi Osaka is relishing her time at the Tokyo Games while other medal contenders have fallen away in the early rounds of the Olympic tournament.

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Who are Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka's parents?
EDGAR SU REUTERS

Japan's Naomi Osaka is relishing her time at the Tokyo Games while other medal contenders have fallen away in the early rounds of the Olympic tournament.

The world number two, back on the court after pulling out of the French Open on mental health grounds and also missing Wimbledon, has been barely troubled in her first two matches at the event.

She brushed aside her opponents in straight sets and has been handling the outsized attention she is receiving on home soil with aplomb.

"I'm here for a good time," Osaka, who lit the Olympic flame at Friday's opening ceremony, tweeted on Monday after beating Swiss Viktorija Golubic 6-3 6-2 at Ariake Tennis Park.

The same could not be said of her closest rivals, with world number three Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus crashing out of the tournament on Monday after a tough, three-set encounter against an inspired Donna Vekic of Croatia.

Osaka was born in Osaka, Japan to a Japanese mother and a Haitian-born father in 1997. She later moved to the US she moved to the US when she was three years old.

Growing up, Osaka – who has dual citizenship - lived on Long Island before moving to Florida with her family.

Tennis - Women's Singles - Round 1Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Tennis - Women's Singles - Round 1 - Ariake Tennis Park - Tokyo, Japan - July 25, 2021. Naomi Osaka of Japan in action during her first round match against Zheng Saisai of China REUTERS/Edgar Su

Who are Naomi Osaka’s parents?

The Grand Slam winner’s parents are Tamaki Osaka and Leonard Francois.

Francois is the one who encouraged his daughters Naomi and Mari to pursue tennis, using instructional books and DVDs at first.

‘I don’t remember liking to hit the ball. The main thing was that I wanted to beat my sister. For her, it wasn’t a competition. Every day I’d say, “I’m going to beat you tomorrow”,’ Osaka once told the New York Times.

Her parents also inspired her to play for Japan. ‘My dad thought that since I grew up around my mom and I have a lot of Japanese relatives… I don’t know… I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like,’ she told the NYT.

Instead of taking their father’s last name, Osaka and her sister use their mother’s Japanese name.

Tamaki met Francois in Japan when she was in high school and he was in college. The two dated in secret for years, and Tamaki's family didn't speak to her for about a decade and a half when they learned of her relationship with Francois. The couple moved to Long Island to live with Francois' family when Naomi was a child. But the family reconnected with Tamaki's family in 2008.

TENNIS-AUSOPEN/Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Japan's Naomi Osaka with Serena Williams of the U.S. after winning their semi final match REUTERS/Kelly Defina

Mari Osaka

Naomi's older sister Mari is also a tennis player (and, in case you're wondering, yes, they have drawn comparisons to Venus and Serena Williams). She's currently ranked #350. The two sisters are extremely close and best friends off the court and they play doubles on the court, too.

Why does Osaka represent Japan?

Despite having grown up in the US the majority of her life, she will represent Japan in the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in August 2021.

In 2019, the athlete announced she would relinquish her US citizenship in order to represent Japan, telling Japanese broadcaster NHK, per the BBC’s translation: ‘It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan.

‘I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional.’

Osaka began representing Japan in junior tournaments when she was just 10 years old. ‘We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age,’ Osaka's parents told the publication. ‘She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture.’

Champion on and off the court

Since defeating Serena Williams in a highly contentious US Open final in 2018, Osaka has gone on to show the world she’s a champion both on and off the court, signing numerous fashion partnerships with luxury brands like Tag Heuer and becoming one of tennis’ most vocal supporters for racial justice.