Naomi Osaka, a 16-year-old rising tennis star from Japan, hits an incredible forehand at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, California.
STANFORD, Calif. -- Naomi Osaka wasn't even supposed to play the Bank of the West Classic. Ranked No. 406, the 16-year-old from Japan got into the qualifying tournament as an alternate and proceeded to advance to her first WTA main draw. She didn't stop there. The teenager, who has lived in the United States since she was 3, earned her first tour-level win when she beat 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur in the first round with a precocious display of power tennis. Sixteen-year-olds aren't supposed to hit serves that clock in at 120 mph, but that's precisely what Osaka did to beat Stosur 4-6, 7-6 (7), 7-5 after saving a match point.
Her Stanford run ended on Wednesday with a 6-2, 6-2 loss to No. 18 Andrea Petkovic, but the teenager left a lasting impression when she fired one of the biggest forehands you will see in the women's game during a rally in the second set. This kid has a live arm.
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Intrigued? Here are a few facts about Osaka, who gave one of the more entertaining -- and sarcastic -- press conferences of the week. She's a personality, that's for sure.
- She was born in Osaka, Japan. Her father was born in Haiti and went to college at NYU before moving to Japan, where he met and married her mother. When one reporter asked her if it was a coincidence that her last name also happened to be her hometown, Osaka deadpanned: "No, because everyone that was born in Osaka, their last name is Osaka." Her older sister Mari is two years older. She also plays tennis and was playing doubles in Stanford this week.
- She doesn't count her win over Stosur as the biggest of her career. "It's probably the second best win of my life, probably. First being when I first beat my sister. I was like yeah, in your face." She counts the win over her sister the biggest of her career because she gets to rub it in her sister's face every day.
- Her idol growing up was Serena Williams. "Because she's everything," Osaka said. Williams is in Stanford competing, and Osaka was too scared to talk to her when she saw her in the players' lounge. When I saw Osaka the day after her Stosur win, she said she was worried people told Serena about her idol worship. "It'd be super creepy," she said. "I don't know how I'd feel about playing a tournament with someone who was like "Oh my God!" But they did end up meeting:
- She trains in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and her coach is Harold Solomon. Before working with Solomon, her father was her coach.
- She's not shy about her ambitions. "Being No. 1 and winning as many Grand Slams as I can," she said. Can she do it? "Yeah. I take offense to that question." In the video below she says she wants to be "a tennis legend."
- She's scared of the Internet. Osaka doesn't have a cell phone (though she does love her iPad), and she's wary of fans on the Internet. "I think people on the Internet are a bit crazy," she told SI.com. "I'm not so sure. They keep making up these theories: 'Is she Blasian?' Blasian? What's Blasian? Yes, I'm Japanese, and I'm black."
- Dream selfie: Beyonce
Her favorite ...
- Movie: Planet of the Apes
- Book: Open, by Andre Agassi
- Musician: Beyonce, Amanda Palmer and Hikaru Utata
- Shot: Forehand
- Player to watch: Novak Djokovic