It may have been an uncomfortable journey driven by the scourge of poverty and unbridled chutzpah, but, Leonard Francois was determined to propel his daughter, Naomi Osaka, to stardom. He wanted her to become a top tennis player through his drive. But, this came with a price Osaka would later pay.
Despite her achievements, including defeating Serena Williams in the US Open in 2018 and gaining the top spot in the world rankings with her powerful tennis skills, Osaka experienced severe depression and feelings of inferiority due to parental pressure.
Alongside breaking records and amassing wealth through endorsements, Osaka struggled with mental health challenges and strange voices in her head, according to the Daily Mail.
At 26, Osaka appears to be an unhappy multimillionaire tennis star, as suggested by sportswriter Ben Rothenberg’s new biography, “Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice.”
According to Rothenberg, the persistent feeling of dissatisfaction has proven challenging for Osaka to overcome, a sentiment he observed while following the four-time Grand Slam winner on tour. The tennis star candidly expressed her inability to define and address a lingering feeling and admitted uncertainty about how to overcome it.
Osaka, who has been open about her mental health struggles, was raised in poverty and propelled into tennis by her ambitious father. Her early motivation in tennis was driven by a desire to beat her sister rather than a love for the sport itself. Standing at 5’11” compared to her sister Mari’s 5’5”, Osaka’s competitive spirit emerged at a young age.
She has openly shared that she experiences two inner voices, often favoring the softer, positive one. However, on the tennis court, a stern and different voice also emerges. She said the pressures became overwhelming, leading to tears during play and her avoidance of post-match press meetings.
Despite reaching the pinnacle of her sport as the No. 1 player and becoming the highest-paid female athlete, Osaka remained dissatisfied, according to sportswriter Rothenberg.
Even on the path to potentially becoming the first billionaire female athlete, Osaka, who trails only Roger Federer, LeBron James, and Tiger Woods in earnings, questioned whether she could have achieved more by age 22 and had doubts about the acceptability of her victories.
Rothenberg argued that while Osaka’s tennis talent is widely acknowledged, there are uncertainties about her mental readiness for the challenges she faced.
Osaka revealed that she once contemplated the purpose of her life ahead of a match in Charleston. She even considered the idea of buying a farm and growing crops instead. Feeling overwhelmed, she expressed a desire to lose the match so she wouldn’t have to continue. Osaka, in tears, sought answers from her coach, who initially attributed her emotional state to fatigue and burnout.
The author suggested that her emotional struggles trace back to her relationship with her father.