Tennis fans know her; soon enough, everyone will. While Naomi Osaka has yet to become a household name, she is a star on the pro-tennis circuit. Although she stayed out of the limelight during her youth, she made quite the impression on sports fans everywhere when she beat Serena Williams in a major upset during the 2018 US Open Championship.
Since then, in particular, Osaka has garnered more endorsements deals and sponsorships than ever before. These deals have allowed the 22-year-old Osaka to make $37.4 million in the last 12 months — a number which surpasses that of Williams, the former highest-paid female athlete (and the woman who has held that title for four years).
Osaka is of Haitian and Japanese descent and acts as a champion for biracial girls around the world. She moved from Japan to the United States when she was three years old; after several years in Long Island, the Osakas moved to the youth tennis hub of the United States: Florida.
For nearly all of her young life, Osaka’s father trained her and her older sister Mari (also a professional tennis player, but plays lower-level circuits). Though their father had little tennis experience, he trained the daughters similar to how Serena and Venus Williams were trained; he “followed the blueprint” of style the Williams’ father had implemented. The results of this tennis training are indeed something to be imitated!
Osaka was able to avoid the public eye pretty easily, as she avoided the United States Tennis Association Junior circuits. This competition of these circuits, and the culture it breeds, is often said to burn-out promising tennis players. However, this is not necessarily the reason Osaka did not partake: her family always felt ties to their Japanese heritage. Therefore, Osaka registered for the Japan Tennis Association, as her dual citizenship allowed.
In July 2014, Osaka qualified for the Women’s Tennis Association tour championship and showed the world she was here to stay; she beat Samantha Stosur, who was formerly ranked 19th in the world. Soon enough, she worked her way into the 2018 US Open Championship against Serena Williams, her idol. The match was certifiably dramatic; there were alleged unfair calls, a game erased from Williams’ record and incessant booing by the fans when Osaka beat Williams. Williams, the fan-favorite, had to eventually tell fans to support Osaka in her win.
However, the drama did not stop Naomi Osaka from shining. She has won two consecutive Grand Slams and will be playing for Japan in the 2020 Olympics.
Because of her imminent participation in the Olympics, Osaka has landed some excellent — and rare — sponsorship deals. For instance, Nike will not require Osaka to solely wear Nike gear during matches. This is a gem of a deal in the sports world! Because of this leg-room, Osaka can now wear other organizations as “patches” on her outfits during matches.
Osaka has racked up 15 endorsement partners, greatly contributing to her $37.4 million income this past year. Other sponsorships include tennis racket producer Yonex, Nissan Motor, Citizen Watch, and All Nippon Airways.
We can only expect her to land even bigger endorsement deals in the years to come. With a serve of a 125 mph and a promising Olympic performance in 2021, all eyes are on Naomi Osaka.