Top Moments From The Naomi Osaka Netflix Doc That’ll Have You Feeling Like You Can Conquer The World
The long-awaited and, now, very timely Naomi Osaka docuseries on Netflix is finally here and it’s jam-packed with a lot of powerful, intimate moments narrated by the tennis champ herself. Naomi Osaka is split into three episodes and gives us a behind the scenes look into the mind of the four-time Grand Slam champion, allowing viewers to witness how rapidly her life turned around with overnight fame and success since winning the 2018 U.S. Open final against her own idol Serena Williams.
As fans, we get to know Osaka on a different level and learn more about her Japanese-Haitian upbringing, how the death of one of her biggest role models in sports affected her and how she diverted from the given blueprint of the average tennis player when it came to activism.
Here are the top moments that will keep you glued to your screens during the three-part series.
Like it did for many of us, Kobe Bryant’s death had a profound impact on the young tennis star.
The Black Mamba – as Kobe was affectionately known – was a role model for so many in sports and beyond. Osaka, too, looked up to the basketball great and his committed champion mentality. When the former Lakers star died in a tragic helicopter crash in January 2020, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, it greatly affected Osaka.
In a video she recorded shortly after the news, she showed the camera her phone background, which was a photo of herself and Bryant, and discussed how much he impacted her.
“It’s so amazing how one person can touch the hearts of so many people. When I talked to him, I felt so similar to him… the way he would describe how he would do things to get under his opponents’ skin or whatever. I was like, ‘That’s literally what I do,’” Osaka said in the video. “So I’m feeling like I let him down. I’m supposed to carry on his mentality in tennis and here I am like… I haven’t won a Grand Slam. I’m losing matches because I’m mentally weak, and he’s… that’s so uncharacteristic of him.”
Naomi wants to fully represent her half-Black and half-Japanese heritage.
In Naomi Osaka, we get to learn more about the difficultues that her parents faced as a biracial couple in Japan. Her parents met while her father (who is from Haiti) was visiting Hokkaido as a college student from New York.
“No matter what somebody does, as an immigrant in Japan, you never really are full Japanese. So we had our obstacles within our marriage and parental, you know, and how they looked at us,” said Francois, who is originally from Jacmel, Haiti. “In choosing their names and making sure it’s a universal name wherever they go, we wanted people to see who they really are.”
Osaka also points out there pressure she feels to highlight her mixed heritage and identity. THough she speaks Japanese with her mom and sister, she says she wishes she spoke it more. Her growing popularity has made her rethink her language proficiency. “Now I’m in the spotlight, I’m thinking maybe I’m doing something wrong by not representing the half-Black, half-Japanese kids well,” she said.
Osaka received backlash when she gave up her U.S. citizenship to represent Japan.
According to Japanese law, those who have dual citizenship that were born after 1985 must choose one citizenship and renounce the other by the time they are 22. So, in order to represent Japan at the 2020 Olympics, Osaka gave up her U.S. citizenship.
Despite spending the majority of her life in the States, Osaka and her sister have always represented Japan. When news broke that she decided to play for Japan instead of the United States, Osaka claimed she received some criticism from Americans.
She says she decided to go pro just for her mom.
Osaka says that she never considered herself to be a great tennis player as a child. Both her mother and father “had a dream of having kids that played tennis,” despite never having played the sport themselves. Though Osaka felt like she wasn’t up to par, her biggest motivator to become better and pursue professional tennis was her mother.
“All I was thinking was, I want my mom to be happy, I want her to stop working,” Osaka said, reflecting on entering the local tennis tournaments as a child. “She would work overtime, she would sleep in her car sometimes. And for me, that was the whole point of playing tennis. It was honestly become a champion or probably be broke.”
George Floyd’s murder and Black Lives Matter helped turn her into the activist she is today.
So many athletes are often forced to keep quiet on issues that they care about to ensure they have access to the best sponsorships, media coverage, and opportunities. Many choose to follow those rules to keep their families happy and achieve the global success so many are after. Osaka herself says that she felt “scared” to express any kind of thoughts that were building up in her head.
But, after the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement became the centerpiece for activism, Osaka joined in on the protests, being one of the biggest tennis players in the world to do so.
“I’ve always been following people and sort of following blueprints of people, and now I feel like I didn’t really find or, like, see a lane or a path that I liked, and I was at a standstill,” Osaka said. “And then I found that you have to make your own path.”
Some of her complains may seem “first world” to some but we learn about the incredible sacrifices she’s made to reach her dreams.
It could be easy to dismiss Osaka’s complaints as high-class problems, from maintaining her then-ranking as the No. 1 player in the world to enduring questions from reporters — a small price to pay for the riches and other benefits associated with world wide fame.
Yet what Naomi Osaka shows us, quite effectively, are the tradeoffs associated with that, including the way in which Osaka, like many prodigies, experienced a far-from-carefree childhood that involved untold hours training on the tennis court. At times listening to Osaka grapple with her doubts and insecurities can be uncomfortable and intrusive, but that’s revealing in its own way. Indeed, it’s possible to envy all that she has and still feel sympathy for the sacrifices made in order to have it — which, in terms of the points that Naomi Osaka intends to get across, is pretty much game, set and match.
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