Naomi Osaka’s ascension has been an uncomfortable climb at times, but the 23-year-old’s zen-like mentality and increased gravitas on and off the court leaves her well poised to handle being the face of women’s tennis .  

The world number three is one win away from her fourth Grand Slam title when she plays American Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open final on Saturday in what could cap a defining campaign.  

Osaka resoundingly beat Serena Williams in the semi-finals and seems destined to inherit the American great’s mantle as the face of tennis.  

It’s a far cry from one year ago when a rattled Osaka felt the strain of expectations as her Australian Open title defence fell apart with a shock loss to a 15-year-old Coco Gauff in the third round. 

“She looked very nervous to me, she was under pressure, and she only looked like that because she was not expressing her feelings,” her coach Wim Fissette said.  

Weeks later, Osaka was embarrassed as she won just three games against Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in a Fed Cup tie.  

“There’s just a lot of stuff that happened there, surrounding that time, that it really made me think a lot about my life,” she said.  


Continue reading this article on Sports Desk, the new sports website by Times of Malta

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