Tennis star Naomi Osaka opens up about why she ‘has to be the best’

In a cover story for 'Allure' the young woman who defeated Serena Williams at the U.S. Open last year talks about her ambitions and what has driven her

Naomi Osaka of Japan poses for a photo with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup following victory in her Women’s Singles Final match against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during day 13 of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 26, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Tennis star Naomi Osaka believes she’s ranked number two by the Women’s Tennis Association not just because she’s talented, but also because for her winning is literally a matter of survival.

In the latest issue of Allure, the 21-year-old confesses that what drives her to dominate in her sport is the fact that she literally has no backup plan.

“My parents weren’t exactly the richest, so what am I going to do?” she asks rhetorically in the cover story interview. “I’m not really the smartest. I’ve been playing tennis my whole life, you know? So there’s nothing I can imagine myself doing. It’s either I have to be the best or I’m going to be homeless.”

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While some people take pride in being talented, the Haitian-Japanese athlete is clear that talent on its own simply isn’t enough, stating, “There’s a certain point where talent isn’t useful anymore, and from there you’ve just got to want to win more than everyone else.”

“I think that’s something I noticed from an early age, so that’s what I’ve been fortunate with,” she continued. “I mean, the way that I grew up and the circumstances that sort of surrounded me kind of forced me to think that way.”

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Osaka who was born in Japan, moved to New York when she was three and started playing tennis shortly thereafter. She credits her humble beginnings and her experiences overcoming struggle for the laser focus and unflinching ambition she’s now known for. But she also concedes that her hardcore training schedule has definitely taken a physical toll.

“I wake up in the morning and all of my bones crack. I don’t think that’s normal,” she said with a laugh.

Recently Serena Williams wrote an open letter about how she made piece with the young tennis champ following their controversial 2018 US Open final match.

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“It was time for me to apologize to the person who deserved it the most,” Williams said about the message she sent Osaka at her therapist’s encouragement. “I started to type, slowly at first, then faster as if the words were flowing out of me.”

“I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete,” read the message. “I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future.”