In most cases, parents are the reason why their children became popular. However, in a few instances like that of Naomi Osaka, she is the sole reason her parents and entire family rose to prominence. After all, every parent is proud of their children’s achievement.
The name Naomi Osaka has been quite a sensation in the world of professional women’s tennis. Her most popular feat was recorded when she defeated Serena Williams, the tennis legend who has won the Grand Slam championship 23 times.
By defeating Serena, Naomi did not only put her family on the international radar, but she also made her country (Japan) proud for winning the title for the first time. Ever since this 22-year-old lady won the accolades, people have become interested in learning about her and her background. Today, we will be taking a journey into her past to discuss her parents. You will soon find out that it wasn’t all rosy for Naomi at the beginning.
Her Parents: Tamaki Osaka and Leonard Francois
The young Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka is today rated in the 10th place globally, as far as Women’s Tennis is concerned. Her parents are Tamaki Osaka and Leonard Francois. By mere looking at their names, you can easily tell that Naomi is a product of interracial marriage. Her dad, Leonard Francois, is a native of Haiti, while her mother, is from Japan.
Tamaki was brought up in a region that upheld racial purity, and so she never dreamed that one day she could get married to a person of a different race. However, she moved to Hokkaido for her high school education, and from there, her worldview began to change. On the other hand, Leonard grew up in Haiti but moved to the United States to continue his education.
Tamaki’s Parents Disapproved Her Marriage with Leonard
Due to the culture in which she was raised, Tamaki’s parents were not happy about her relationship with Leonard. However, her education in another part of the country exposed her to other cultures, and she ended up appreciating the diversity of everyone. Without a doubt, she was going to abandon an age-long tradition for love. Leonard came into Tamaki’s life in a remarkable event as one of the first sets of foreigners to move to the country. In a short while of meeting and interacting with him, Tamaki’s doubts were cleared.
At that time, the nation Japan was still very much involved in racial segregation, and being a black man, Leonard was always at the receiving end of it. Their relationship was frowned out by Tamaki’s parents when they finally found out. Her Dad was furious and accused her of dragging the family’s name into disrepute. Rather than allow the hostility to divide them, the love birds chose to remain loyal to what they felt for each other. For this reason, Tamaki became estranged from her family for over ten years.
Birth of Naomi Osaka
It is always an amazing thing when love finally finds its way. The Haitian and Japanese lovebirds welcomed their little angel(Naomi) home on the 16th of October 1997, who will later grow to become a global tennis champion. Naomi was born just 18 months after her elder sister, Mari. Based on the legal requirements as stipulated in the Japanese family registration, Naomi and Mari were Christen according to their mom’s maiden name, Osaka.
Life for the Osakas wasn’t at all rosy, and this contributed to the lifestyle and determination of Naomi Osaka. Today she is well known for her moderation and humility. She noted that when she was quite young, she craved expensive things but learned to live a life of contentment. Naomi is both American and Japanese, but she chose to represent her Japanese heritage at the world championship.
Leonard Taught His Daughters to Play Tennis
When Naomi was about three years of age, her family relocated from Japan to the USA, where they lived with her Dad’s family at Long Island, New York. In 1999, while watching the French open where the Williams sisters played, Leonard got the idea that he could teach his daughters to play just like Richard Williams taught his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, who became the world champion.
Leonard depended more on the blueprints that Richard Williams used in his case, and he also watched lots of DVDs on the subject. His daughters were introduced to the game at an early age. The Osaka parents were very intentional about the growth of their daughters in the game; hence in 2016, they relocated to Florida where the girls would have better sporting opportunities. Naomi learned how to pay on the Pembroke Pines courts until she turned 15 and started training at the ISP Academy with Patrick Trauma as her coach.
While Leonard was busy training his girls on how to play the game of tennis, their mother was busy at the home front and working hard to provide money for their immediate family needs. According to Naomi, when they go to a tournament, their mum would be back at the hole working extra hours to pay bills. She added that there are days where Tamaki will be up as early as 4 am.
About Mari Osaka
Their dad Leonard drew inspiration from the upbringing of the Williams sisters and made his girls start practicing tennis at an early age. Mari was a good player, although her dreams of becoming a tennis star one day couldn’t come true as she suffered from multiple injuries that have affected her.
According to Naomi, the game was always between her and her sister as they both competed against each other. She noted how she always promised Mari that she will one day beat her on the tennis courts and how it took her 12 years to achieve that feat. Mari was a good player and always gave Naomi the run for it.
The Osaka Sisters Prefer to Represent Japan Rather than the USA
With her winning the championship, Naomi immediately entered the spotlight, and everyone wanted to know more about her. Finding out that she is both Japanese and American, people were surprised why she chose her Japanese root over her American.
However, this move had been pre-planned by her parents while she and her sister were both learning the game. First, they have a stronger tie to Japan since that was where they had spent the central part of their lives, meaning they have more memories there than in America. Also, their parents had deliberated on it and reached an agreement.
Another factor was that at 11years of age, Naomi’s parents took the two girls to see Tamaki’s parents and repaired the broken bridge in their family. Their grandparents accepted the two girls into their lives and loved them. Although, they didn’t see any reason why the kids would be allowed to take up playing tennis as a full-time engagement because, in their opinion, tennis was only good as a hobby.
Furthermore, the Osaka sisters never got any support from the American side as the Tennis Association called to help them when they needed their help. The sisters at the time didn’t participate in tournaments. They weren’t being ranked, so the USA tennis association considered any investment in them to be a waste of resources, not realizing that one of the duo will later emerge as a world champion just ten years down the line. This rejection was what made Naomi’s parents conclude that their daughters are better off supporting their maternal country of origin rather than their paternal. In an Interview with New York times, Naomi noted that her father agreed that she and her sister should retain the Japanese culture they were brought up in since they do not even behave or act like Americans in the first place.
The American sports media went agog when Naomi chose to represent Japan at the Olympics in Tokyo. This was not the first time that an athlete will choose their other nationality over their American heritage, and they mostly do it for reasons best known to them.
Most times during her interviews, the question about her ethnicity always comes up in the discussion. Anytime the question is thrown at her, Naomi Osaka is always proud to embrace her multiethnic and diverse heritage by saying that she is both Black and Asian.
At the moment, though, Naomi holds dual citizenship of both the USA and Japan. Japanese law requires that when the citizens become 22 years old, they are made to select their preferred citizenship between Japanese and others. Naomi chose Japan over the USA in 2019. Over the years, the people of Japan have also fallen in love with this young athlete. However, Naomi is not good with the Japanese Language, even though she grew up there. She noted that even though she could understand the language, she isn’t a fluent speaker.