Naomi Osaka: Blazing new trails in tennis industry

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka is a champion on the court having won 4 major championships.

She has become a name that is familiar to all of us. Each of her Grand Slam wins has become an instant classic.

Osaka has always been her own person. Some would say that the timeless quote by Henry David Thoreau applies to her: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

She does in fact march to her own drumbeat. That is what the tennis community admires about Osaka.

The former No. 1 has throughout her career dealt with many challenges. She has faced them openly and honestly. Her innocence has been on full display for all of us to see.

Yet her resiliency continues to show her strength of character.

When Osaka burst onto the tennis scene some years ago, we didn’t know her. Now, that has changed. She is a champion both on and off the court.

She is one of the top 20 highest paid athletes in the world. It is safe to assume that she will continue to climb in the rankings.

Osaka played at Roland Garros but lost in the first round to American Amanda Anisimova. However, there is in my opinion a much bigger story about Osaka.

Osaka was until recently represented by the IMG (International Management Group).

She is now hearing the drum of independence and creating a strategy to achieve it. Osaka will be developing her own sports and talent agency. According to reports, she will be partnering with Stuart Duguid.

He is a former high-ranking staffer with the IMG. This talent combination is poised to make a big impact on the cross section of sports and entertainment.

The name of the company will be EVOLVE, spelled in capital letters.

Osaka told Sportico, “I’ve spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn’t what was expected or traditional.”

She added, “I’m excited to start this with my business partner Stuart and our plan is to use the same approach we took in building my businesses authentically and strategically as a vision for this company.”

Osaka has business acumen that belies her age. She will become one of the few professional athletes to handle their business affairs.

Hard work, tenacity and self-confidence have been bridges that have strengthened her will to win tennis matches. It is also proving to be a formula for her off the court as well.

So, when we watch Osaka play tennis, we will also be watching a champion tennis player and an astute businesswoman. She is living history and breaking barriers each day. She goes about it with great integrity and fortitude.

Young girls of both races and all ethnicities see her as a role model. The next generation of athletes will point to her as the standard bearer.

Her future is bright and full of promise. She is defining her future and showing us a roadmap of her journey.

Osaka’s vision is clear, and the promise of success is ahead of her. There will be other athletes who will want to emulate what Naomi Osaka is doing. Will they be successful? Only time will tell.

There is one thing for sure that we have come to know about her and that is she has a strong belief in her talents. She has only just begun.

Let us congratulate and cheer Osaka on as we celebrate Asian-American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month throughout May.

James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D. is the USTA Southern Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair.