Naomi Osaka is winning over fans from Japan and elsewhere during her run at the Australian Open, with the 18-year-old getting plenty of backing from the crowd during her second-round win.
The teenager with a Haitian father and Japanese mother is based in the United States, but represents her birthplace in competition.
"It was actually like there was a lot of Japanese people and they were actually cheering for me,” she said. “So I was, like, really happy. I always think that they're surprised that I'm Japanese. So, like the fact that there was Japanese flags and stuff, it was really touching."
Though multinational, she is not multilingual. Despite her background, she admits to speaking little Japanese and has had difficulty conducting interviews in the language. But she did give a traditional bow to the crowd following the match.
"Yeah, it's the only part of my Japanese side,” she explained. “Kind of because there were a lot of people cheering for me.
A tall, big-hitting player, she said her increased success has been helped by taming power in favor of more consistency.
The world No. 127, who next plays Victoria Azarenka, agreed she also seemed popular with the local spectators.
"Probably because they think I'm interesting," she said. "Maybe it's because they can't really pinpoint what I am, so it's like anybody can cheer for me."