MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Naomi Osaka said she’s just returned from Haiti where some people struggle to get clean drinking water. This makes her appreciate even more getting into the Australian Open quarterfinals — and her own good life.
Haiti is her father’s birthplace — her mother Tamaki is Japanese. It’s also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
“For me, it’s a very humbling experience to go back because you see so many people that they don’t have much, and then you go back to your house and everything that you take for granted you start appreciating it more,” the defending US Open champion said Monday after beating Anastasija Sevastova 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“I went to Haiti the first time two years ago and then I started playing well,” Osaka explained. “I started appreciating everything and I didn’t want to complain about anything. Because when you go there and you see people, like, literally, they have to walk miles for water.”
Her father, Leonard Francois, left Haiti to study in the United States and then moved to Japan where Naomi and elder sister Mari were born. The family later moved to the United States, where Osaka was raised.
Osaka’s coach Sascha Bajin said the early success in Australia can be credited to better fitness.
“The way we structured the off-season was we started the first week where we prioritized only strength and conditioning,” Bajin said. “So we did just a lot of running.”
Bajin said that routine carried on until playing tennis took over.
“We just wanted to make sure that the body feels right and she’s in the best possible shape,” he said.
Osaka recently took up her older sister’s dare to walk the home streets in Japan wearing a wig and sunglasses to protect her privacy.
“I personally think she was making it a bigger deal than it had to be,” Osaka said. “Honestly, I feel like people don’t look at other people when they’re walking around.”
“I get that I’m tan and I would stand out a little bit in Japan,” she added. “I think the only way people would really care is if I’m wearing some sort of athletic (gear), like, if I was walking around with my tennis racket. You know, other than that, I don’t think people really care too much.”
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