MIAMI, FL, USA - Ahead of starting her Miami Open campaign this week, World No.1 Naomi Osaka sat down with Vogue magazine to talk everything from identity to improvement.
"That's such a complex question," the Japanese-Haitian player mused when faced with another question about her mixed heritage and multicultural upbringing. In terms of fashion, Osaka thinks she is "too wild for America, but too tame for Japan" - though she favors Japanese designers such as Comme des Garçons. But her country of birth has embraced her anyway, with the US Open and Australian Open champion even lending her name to a new buzzword - Naomi-bushi, or "Naomi-esque", referring to Osaka's dry, idiosyncratic sense of humor.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) March 21, 2019
In any case, although the increased spotlight has meant that Osaka is more conscious about living up to her role model status, she still says: "I prefer to listen." This is a trait that has long been evident: both on-court and off-court, Osaka has conveyed her personality through simply being herself, rather than explaining to a curious world.
But something that she is willing to talk about is framing her identity through the lens of her character: Osaka's drive for self-improvement and deep-seated competitive nature. "The only thing I can do is keep moving forward and keep trying my best," she tells Vogue - ostensibly a reference to the drama of her US Open final victory over Serena Williams, but equally relevant to how Osaka is seeking to evolve as a player and as a person. These days, she refers to some of her poorer performances as "childish", and remarks that "I was more introverted" before working with former coach Sascha Bajin, from whom she split after the Australian Open.
Osaka's own role models remain childhood idol Serena Williams, mother Tamaki and older sister Mari (making her own WTA debut in Miami this week) - while in the realm of pop culture, the World No.1 favors Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Drake.
But when it comes to tennis, the sport's latest superstar is ploughing her own path - and, for all her self-effacing humility, has no intention of stopping. "I can't really think of a moment where I was playing something, and I didn’t want to win," she informs Vogue - the fundamental driver behind all that self-improvement.