Naomi Osaka has announced that she intends to represent Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Though the two-time Grand Slam champion carries Japan’s flag besides her name on the WTA Tour, she is a dual citizen of Japan and the United States. She turns 22 years old next Wednesday, which—according to Japanese law—is the age at which those with dual nationality must select one. As such, she has made the decision to give up her U.S. citizenship and represent Japan.
The champion Osaka, at the 2019 Toray Pan Pacific Open. (Getty Images)
Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother, Tamaki Osaka; and a Haitian father, Leonard François. She lived there until she was three years old.
Even though she’s spent the majority of her life in the United States, the former world No. 1 has an emotional connection to her birth country. And with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo approaching, this is Osaka’s opportunity to represent her country in the most special way, in front of her home crowd.
"It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan. I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional," she told NHK.
Osaka (second from left) representing Japan at the 2018 Fed Cup. (Getty Images)
The 21-year-old has already made national history, defeating Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open final to become the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles title. Now, she has opened a window of opportunity to write more history and become the first Japanese player to capture a gold medal in Olympic tennis.
After claiming her second major earlier this year in Australia, the world No. 3 wasn’t able to maintain the same level of play that saw her win two major championships. She fell early at Roland Garros and suffered a first-round loss at Wimbledon. It almost seemed the pressure of expectations overwhelmed her on court.
But Osaka, now back at No. 3 in the rankings, is turning things around and picking up momentum as the year winds down. She’s on a 10-match winning streak after claiming titles at the Toray Pan Pacific Open and the China Open.
The question is, will Osaka carry over the same intensity into 2020? If so, we may see the Japanese star shine brightest next summer in Tokyo.
Osaka currently trains and resides in Boca Raton, FL.