tennis star Naomi Osaka
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Tennis Star Naomi Osaka

Since her spectacular Grand Slam against the legendary Serena Williams at this weekend’s U.S. Open, tennis star Naomi Osaka has become our latest sports darling, thanks in large part to her fascinating story. She was born in Japan to a Haitian father, Leonard François, and a Japanese mother, Tamaki Osaka. Tennis star Naomi Osaka Though just 20 years old, she made history as the first Grand Slam winner of Japanese or Haitian descent. Though representing Japan on the international circuit, she’s has always been proud of her Caribbean roots. Here are five things to know about the player on the rise.

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Her dad was her first coach

Leonard François was inspired to train Osaka and her older sister (and fellow tennis star) Mari, by Richard Williams, father and coach of the famous tennis duo, Serena and Venus Williams, after watching them perform at the 1999 French Open. Like Richard, François taught himself competitive tennis and started training the girls when they were toddlers. He even favored practicing on outdoor clay courts, like Richard did.

She spent her early years with her Haitian grandparents

Though born in Japan, Osaka left with her family when she was three to live with her Haitian grandparents in Long Island. Her childhood in Long Island was “an interesting mix,” Osaka told The New Zealand Herald last year.” I grew up with a mix of Japanese and Haitian culture, but we were living in New York. My grandma and father would speak Creole, my mum would cook Japanese food.”

She’s a SoFlo girl

The family moved when Osaka was 9 to train both girls at Broward County, Florida’s elite tennis camps. To dedicate more time to her budding tennis career, she was home-schooled through the Broward Virtual High School program. When she isn’t traveling around the world for tournaments, Osaka still trains at Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, where she also lives with her family.

She helped budding tennis stars in Haiti

In October last year, Osaka went to Haiti for the first time, visiting her father’s hometown Jacmel. But she also took time to inspire Haiti’s aspiring tennis players. She was invited by the Haitian Tennis Federation to speak to their young players at a special clinic and exhibition game at the Karibe Convention Center. She also visited with young students at a local school.

She’s an avid photographer

Her main Instagram is filled with dramatic tennis shots and scenes from her intense traveling, but Osaka also keeps another Instagram account at @nao.chiii to show off her stunning travel photography, from waterfalls in Haiti to the neon-lit streets of Tokyo.

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Monique McIntosh is the digital editor of Island Origins Magazine, and a spectacular freelance writer. She's originally from Kingston, Jamaica, with an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and a BA in English Literature from Davidson College. She particularly loves profiling artists and learning more about their creative process. Reach out to her if you want to work together on something interesting. She particularly loves anything creative from the Caribbean. Read more of her writing on her website at


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