Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka became a household name after beating Serena Williams to win the 2018 US Open. While Osaka’s win was mired in controversy — Williams expressed on-court frustration over umpire rulings — it launched the 23-year-old Haitian-Japanese athlete into international stardom. Now, in Naomi Osaka, an upcoming three-part documentary series from Netflix, fans will discover how Osaka handled that fame, and how she rose to become a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, current US Open titleholder, and one of the highest-paid athletes in the world.
“No one really knows the all sacrifices you make just to be good,” says Osaka in a voiceover. She also remarks that, to her, fame is “ridiculous,” adding that “no one prepares you” to become one of the most famous athletes on the planet, and that she “tied winning to my self-worth as a person.” Osaka has been vocal about suffering from depression stemming from that 2018 win, and in the documentary, we see her opening up about her emotions, as well as performing at an elite level despite the mental and physical symptoms of the mental illness.
Osaka reveals that she initially began playing tennis to earn money for her mother. “I wanted my mom to like, be happy. I wanted her to stop working. She would work overtime, she would sleep in her car.” In searching for inner strength, Osaka reflects on her father’s reminder that their ancestors were “on the [Atlantic slave trade] ship for 40 days,”
The demands of fame manifested in a “pressure to maintain this squeaky image,” she says, and she finally decided to approach fame on her own terms. Earlier this year, Osaka refused to entreat with the press at the 2021 French Open, citing a need to “exercise self‑care.” She later pulled out of the French Open entirely, though she will compete at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, representing Japan. You can watch the Naomi Osaka trailer below, which will premiere on Netflix on July 16.