US Open champion Naomi Osaka looks focused on the cover of TIME magazine this month.
According to TIME, the 20 year old Japanese No.1 will be the face of their Jan. 21 issue, and the cover story will feature an in-depth profile based on an interview conducted in the December offseason.
In the piece written by TIME’s writer Sean Gregory, Osaka – who was born to a Haitian father and Japanese mother – recalls what it was like growing up on Long Island in New York, her family’s later move to Florida, and how her richly diverse background impacted her road to having a professional tennis career.
In addition to hearing from the sports star, readers will also gain some insight from Osaka’s father, Leonard, and her sister, Mari, on what’s changed – and what hasn’t – since her shocking and controversial win against Serena Williams.
“Once she puts her focus on something, she never strays from it,” said Mari. “It gets to the point where it’s almost ridiculous.”
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) January 10, 2019
Although Osaka grew up in the U.S. she competes for Japan and is currently at a career-high World No.4 as she prepares for the first Grand Slam of 2019 at the Australian Open.
“If you’re talking about an international sporting event like the Olympics she’s your international star you’re going to market it around.” says Bob Dorfman, creative director of Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco and a veteran sports marketer. “She’s got American appeal, Caribbean appeal, Japanese appeal. As nationalities continue to mix in this world, that makes her even more desirable.”
There is no doubt that Osaka’s heightened profile as an athlete will draw more global media interest than she’s used to. But despite her newfound celebrity, she maintains that she’s committed to staying grounded.
“You really never know what people can do,” she explains. “And how people can change. I don’t think there is ever going to be another Serena Williams. I think I’m going to be me. And I hope people are okay with that.”