The 21-year-old is featured on the January cover of Time. Naomi Osaka is Time’s cover girl for the January 21 issue, and in it she tells Time’s Sean Gregory that she still very much loves Serena Williams even after the controversial incident that the pair endured at last year’s U.S. Open final.
“Serena is Serena,” Osaka told time in her first extended interview since the final. “I didn’t experience her life. I can’t tell her what she’s supposed to do, because there are things that she’s gone through. I have nothing against her or anything. I actually still really love her.”
Osaka went on to say that she held no grudges and that after some reflection she realized that she is fine with the way things turned out.
“In a perfect dream, things would be set exactly the way you would want them,” she told Time. “But I think it’s more interesting that in real life, things aren’t exactly the way you planned. And there are certain situations that you don’t expect, but they come to you, and I think those situations set up things for further ahead.”
The article features quotes from Osaka’s sister Mari as well as her father Leonard Maxine Francios and her coach Sascha Bajin. In it we get a feel of the impact that Osaka has had on Japan, particularly with mixed race people who are inspired to see Osaka, who is Haitian and Japanese, gaining so much acclaim.
The piece also features personal notes on Osaka’s perfectionism, intensity, and her online shopping.
“She’s going crazy,” her sister says of her online shopping. “Every day is like Christmas.”
Osaka, whose endorsement earnings are rumored to have gone from approximately $2.5 million to $15 million, isn’t letting any of it go to her head.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) January 8, 2019
The Time Cover caption reads “Naomi Osaka defeated her idol Serena Williams, now she just might succeed her.” It’s probably a caption that makes the modest and shy 21-year-old cringe.
She offered her own version in the article, one that is more likely to be closer to the truth.
“I don’t think there is ever going to be another Serena Williams,” she told Time. “I think I’m going to be me. And I hope people are O.K. with that.”
Osaka, who fell in the semifinals of her first event of 2019 at Brisbane, is seeded fourth at the Australian Open. She will open on Tuesday against Poland’s Magda Linette in first-round action.
While we were in the process of writing and posting this article we learned of Osaka’s latest ensorsement, with All Nipon Airlines:
US Open champ @Naomi_Osaka_ signs new deal with All Nippon Airlines (ANA) @FlyANA_official. Will wear brand’s patch at all events. 4th deal since September 2018. #flyANA #NaomiOsaka #IMGTennis pic.twitter.com/3ud8Hyhuj2
— IMG Tennis (@IMGTennis) January 11, 2019