Haitian-Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has gained widespread attention and admiration in the Haitian community. On Saturday, 20-year-old Osaka defeated her childhood idol Serena Williams during the U.S. Open Women’s Final. Here are three things to know about the tennis star bringing pride to Haitians across the world.
She took her mother’s name instead of her father’s.
Osaka and her sister Mari took their mother’s last name, Osaka, to make their life in Japan easier.
“It was mostly a practical matter when they lived in Japan, helpful for enrolling in schools and renting apartments,” the New York Timesreported. But as the girls grew up in America, their name would become a constant reminder of the homeland that they would one day represent.”
Osaka plays for Japan; not Haiti or the United States.
Osaka’s father, Leonard Maxime Francois, decided the budding tennis star should play for her mother’s homeland to increase her chances for funding opportunities.
“The United States Tennis Association showed little interest in helping them develop,” the New York Timesreported. “Rather than vie for support with hundreds of other talented young players in America, Francois made a pivotal decision: His daughters, from age 13, would play for Japan, the nation they left behind nearly a decade earlier.”
She embraces her Haitian heritage.
“I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like.”
Although, the 20 year old lived and grew up in Japan and the United States, the tennis champion fully embraces her father’s native Haiti.
“I grew up surrounded by both Haitian and Japanese culture,” she said. In previous interviews, she’s mentioned how proud she is to not only represent Japan, but also Haiti. “Of course, I am really honored to be playing for Japan,” she said. “And my dad’s side is Haitian. So…represent!”