Naomi Osaka need not look far to find inspiration in her life. The 23-year-old recently announced her investment in the National Women's Soccer League's NC Courage, a move that Osaka said was inspired by her heroes and loved ones.
"I've been seeing this sort of ongoing thing where other athletes are investing in other sports," Osaka told reporters ahead of the Gippsland Trophy, where she is set to begin her 2021 season as the No.2 seed. "I always thought it was really cool.
"Billie Jean King texts me sometimes, so I was getting inspired from her. I remember reading in an article that Serena's daughter invested in a soccer team, too. I thought that maybe that's a really good direction to go.
The first pic The most recent pic pic.twitter.com/3jYv9yxxju— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 29, 2021
"As for choosing North Carolina, it's because I visited there quite a couple of times because of my boyfriend's family, and he was born there."
Based in Cary, North Carolina, the Courage have been a dominant force in the NWSL over the last three seasons. They are three-time regular-season winners (2017, 2018, 2019) and the reigning back-to-back league champions, winning the titles in 2018 and 2019.
"I feel like definitely, I'll be able to go down there and watch a couple of games," Osaka said.
"For me, the biggest thing I'm excited about, I really want to try to train with them. I think it's always really fun to train with different athletes and see what they're better than me at. I'm sure there's a lot of things that they're better than me at."
The women who have invested in me growing up made me who I am today, I don’t know where I would be without them. Throughout my career I’ve always received so much love from my fellow female athletes so that’s why I am proud to share that I am now a owner of @TheNCCourage ⚽️❤️ pic.twitter.com/Iz0YcVvOqz— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) January 28, 2021
Osaka has not played a tour-level match since winning her third major title at the US Open last fall. On Friday, she took to the court in Adelaide for an exhibition against Serena Williams, with the American tallying a narrow 6-2, 2-6, 10-7 victory.
"My mind doesn't really stress too much on exhibitions," Osaka said. It was just fun for me to share the court with Serena and just see fans in the audience.
"I wasn't really taking it too seriously as a match-match. But it was fun to be able to hit with her and stuff."
Q. How are you grappling with being seen as the face of women's tennis these days?— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 31, 2021
Naomi Osaka: Honestly I don't feel that way. There's so many interesting new people. I think I'm one of the new people.
As long as Serena's here, I think she's the face of women's tennis. pic.twitter.com/h1VVEy9x4H
"I would say during the exhibition I just tried to have fun and experiment a little. I feel like there's a lot of shots that I'm missing. I would love to be able to do them properly, be confident with how I feel about it. Dropshots are one of those shots. I feel like I'm getting better at slicing. That's something that I practiced during the off-season.
"As for everything else, hopefully you'll see it during my matches."
Osaka opens her tournament against either Alizé Cornet or Ajla Tomljanovic.