Under her black visor, which she lowers to hide her eyes, a few tears bead. In Flushing Meadows (New York) which has just hosted the final of the US Open, the atmosphere is electric, the whistles of the public, aggressive. Naomi Osaka, 20, on the podium, is not crying for joy. However, by winning her first Grand Slam tournament on September 8, 2018, she entered the history of her country, and therefore of tennis, since no Japanese athlete has yet gleaned a major title in this sport.
“I know everyone was for Serena, I’m sorry that it ended like this,” she apologizes to the fans of her opponent, Serena Williams, the 23-title Grand Slam queen who suffered, during the final and in extreme tension, a triple sanction. The scene is almost surreal but illustrates the shyness of this introverted young woman, who does not yet measure the great future to which she is promised.
“She is very strong mentally, analyzes Sophie Dorgan, journalist at The team. Managing to stay in your match by obscuring the issue, the noise of the spectators and the aura of the legendary player she faces is exceptional. The moment is wasted but the dream, only dogged. Serena Williams, her idol, leans towards her, congratulates her and invites the audience to applaud her. The mother of a generation of players has just knighted Naomi Osaka.
“The pandemic allowed me to open up to the real world”
The young woman, who has lived in the United States since the age of 3, immediately plunges into the great bath of notoriety. The Japanese adore her, the companies court her. Snowshoe maker Yonex, noodle giant Nissin Foods, Nissan and cosmetics Shiseido are rolling out the red carpet for her to accept partnerships. The American Nike steals the show from Adidas and makes him sign a contract at 10 million dollars a year. Naomi Osaka becomes highest-paid female athlete in the world from June 2019 to June 2020, according to the review Forbes. With $ 37.4 million pocketed (including $ 34 million in sponsorship), she dethroned Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, two tennis and magazine icons. The height of chic, this month of January, LVMH (Editor’s note: owner of the Les Echos – Le Parisien group) makes her the new face of Louis Vuitton and Tag Heuer watches.
In 2019, its popularity on social networks is exploding. We discover her soft features, her radiant smile. She enjoys fashion, modeling poses and her life in sunny Florida. There is lightness and glamor, until the Covid-19 crisis tarnishes the picture. “Tennis players think their whole life depends on the outcome of a match. This is not true, confided the young woman to US Vogue, which it made the headlines earlier this year. The pandemic allowed me to open up to the real world. “And to participate in its first demonstration, May 30, 2020 in Minneapolis, in tribute to George Floyd, the African-American killed by a police officer during a violent arrest five days earlier.
Get out of your comfort zone, speak out, take responsibility. The Black Lives Matte movement touches her deeply, questions of racism and identity echo her heritage. Born of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father, a marriage of love condemned by the maternal family, Naomi Osaka was built in the interbreeding of cultures and against prejudices. “As a black woman, I feel like there are more important things than watching me play tennis, and they demand immediate attention,” she explains on social media as she has just given up, to speak out against another case of police violence, to participate in the semi-final of the Cincinnati tournament on August 26, 2020. She will play it, after the American federation has followed suit and decreed a day’s break.
Politics is entering the sports scene, and it’s a revolution. For a long time, omerta was imposed on athletes. “In 2016, the activism of American football player Colin Kaepernick, who had dropped to one knee during the American anthem, cost him his career,” recalls Carole Gomez, director of research in geopolitics of sport at the Institute. international and strategic relations.
Favorite of the season
“2020 marks a turning point. The politicization of the word of sportsmen is accepted; they are no longer afraid of losing their sponsors, ”continues the researcher. Emile Leclerc, director of studies Odoxa, confirms, polls in support, that public opinion is ready: “Athletes could even engage even more. Naomi Osaka, she is no longer silent. During the last US Open, last September, she had the names of victims of police violence printed on her anti-Covid masks in black fabric. Seven games, seven names, one claim. She does not forget to keep the power on the court, winning her third Grand Slam title. And the sponsors follow. ” Lawyer courageous for the cause of blacks in the United States, it goes beyond the scope of its sport and attracts even more attention, ”said journalist Sophie Dorgan. When it comes to attacking the season as a favorite, Naomi Osaka is everywhere. His visor no longer hides his eyes, his gaze is determined. To win and change the world.
Article original de: www.leparisien.fr