Naomi Osaka made a winning return to action from maternity leave at the 2024 Brisbane International, and before she prepares to play her first major tournament since giving birth to daughter Shai last summer, the tennis world can catch up on her unforgettable story in a new biography written by journalist Ben Rothenberg.

Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice is set to be released on January 9, less than a week before the upcoming Australian Open, and is full of new stories and insights into the four-time Grand Slam champion.

Here are some of the best tidbits from the forthcoming book, available for pre-order here:

1. As a child, Naomi starred in an independent film directed by her father.

Osaka is used to the spotlight, but long before she performed in front of packed arenas, she acted in front of the camera for father Leonard Maxime François.

The Haitian-American patriarch of the Osaka family made coaching daughters Naomi and Mari his full-time job, but made time to pursue creative outlets when living on Long Island in the early 2000s.


“Leonard had cast his daughters as Rachel (Naomi) and Alicia (Mari) in Selfish Love, the two children of a fraught marriage at the center of his first feature film,” wrote Rothenberg. “Leonard also kept the story close to home by shooting much of it inside his family’s own house in Elmont, as well as at other locations around the neighborhood.”

The drama featured harrowing scenes, including a climactic scene involving domestic abuse, Leonard telling a friend who was tasked with writing the screenplay, “Well, I wanted to create a movie where if they’re ever in a situation like that, they know what to do and they don’t have to take it.”

The notoriously shy Osaka is loath to discuss her brief stint as a child actress. “People sometimes send me clips of myself in the movie and it’s so embarrassing,” she said. “But it was a really good time for me when I was younger.”

2. Osaka’s father picked the winner of ITF Pro Circuit matches played between his daughters.

Richard Williams was long accused of fixing matches between daughters Venus and Serena; the rumor fueled a dramatic backlash to the family during the 2001 Indian Wells tournament that led the Williamses to boycott the tournament for over a decade.

When Naomi and elder sister Mari faced off on much smaller stages, the latter admits their father had the final say.


“The first time I won but my dad had told Naomi to let me win,” she told Rothenberg. “The second time he told me to let her win because he didn’t want to see us fighting after the match. I still fought during, but I stopped myself most of the match.”

Mari, who recently wrote and deleted a worrying post accusing her father of domestic violence, told Rothenberg she believed these instructions were meant to keep the sisters close.

“My dad didn’t want the road trip home to be constant arguing in the back seat.”

Mari initially had the upper hand on Naomi on the court, but was never able to match her younger sister on the pro tour, playing just one WTA main draw match at the 2019 Miami Open.

3. The Osaka family was on the verge of eviction in the weeks leading up to Naomi’s WTA breakthrough

Osaka’s thunderous WTA debut at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic appeared well ahead of schedule for the then-16-year-old, who stunned former world No. 4 Samantha Stosur in three sets. Rothenberg revealed instead that the breakthrough didn’t come a moment too soon for a family on the brink of homelessness.

A month before she entered the qualifying draw in Stanford, the Osakas were served an eviction notice on their Pembroke Pines condominium, and were given six weeks to vacate the property.


“The sisters’ tennis results hadn’t been paying the bills,” Rothenberg wrote. “Naomi had made just $6,290 through the first six months of 2015; Mari had managed just $2,160.”

That all changed after her winning week in Stanford; after qualifying for the main draw, she scored a thrilling three-set win over the 2011 US Open champion, earning $10,000 in prize money for the effort. She soon caught the eye of sponsors like Adidas, who offered her a lucrative apparel deal. Naomi’s ship had come in.

4. Serena Williams trashed her runner-up trophy after losing to Osaka at the 2018 US Open

Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice doesn’t only provide revelations about its subject, as it also lends deeper insight into her paradigm-shifting first Grand Slam final against Serena Williams. Up against her idol who was looking to win a 24th major title, Osaka played near-perfect tennis through a chaotic evening that featured multiple code violations to Williams.

Serena joked back in 2021 to *Architectural Digest* that she has no taste for runner-up trophies, and Rothenberg describes the truth in jest after Williams retreated to the locker room following her 6-2, 6-4 defeat to Osaka.

“…once she was behind closed doors, Serena made her feelings about the relic of her loss clear, dumping the platter into a trash can,” Rothenberg writes.

An attendant attempted to return the trophy only for Serena to return and announce, “I. Don’t. Play. For. Second. Place.”

The match between Williams and Osaka set off a media firestorm that Rothenberg deftly recaps in the book, including how it played into the political culture wars on cable news and online.


5. Osaka ended her coaching relationship with Sascha Bajin when she discovered he was dating a fellow player

Sascha Bajin had been the architect behind Osaka’s initial ascent to Grand Slam glory. The longtime hitting partner of Serena Williams began working with the young Japanese star at the start of the 2018 season, and became the WTA tour’s inaugural Coach of the Year after leading her to milestone victories at the BNP Paribas Open and US Open.

The two were reportedly on the outs despite starting the 2019 season together, but the reason for their mysterious split had never been made public: Osaka discovered Bajin was dating a competitor.

“Naomi confronted Bajin, breaking the weeks-long silence between the, putting him on the spot about what she’d heard about his off-court relationship with another player,” Rothenberg writes. “Bajin, who had encouraged Naomi to hit with this player at a tournament despite her much lower ranking, denied it repeatedly…The next day, when Bajin came back and admitted it was true, Naomi told him her trust had been broken.”

The pair ultimately split after Osaka won her second major title at the Australian Open and clinched the No. 1 ranking.


6. Osaka met Kobe Bryant through LeBron James

Osaka’s turbulent 2019 season inspired her to find off-court advice from a fellow athlete who had the insight she lacked.“She wondered aloud how the greats did it,” writes Rothenberg. “How did they handle knowing that every opponent would bring their best each time they stepped on the court? How did they accept that wins were expected while each loss would be headline news?”

Osaka and agent Stuart Duguid initially reached out to LeBron James before getting in touch with Kobe Bryant, igniting a friendship that continued until Bryant’s untimely death in 2020.

“The first time they ever met, Naomi and Kobe spoke for two hours; when she walked out of the building she told Duguid it was the most valuable two hours of her life,” recounts Rothenberg.

Click here to read all of Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and her Voice, on bookshelves January 9.