WTA Abu Dhabi 2024: Who Is Naomi Osaka’s Other Role Model Besides Serena Williams?

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Aug 16, 2022; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Naomi Osaka (JPN) returns the ball in her match against Shuai Peng (CHN) at the Western & Southern Open at the at the Lindner Family Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
Continuing to play tennis after becoming a parent can be life-changing. It is not easy to then manage one’s personal and professional life with the perfect balance. That is the exact dilemma that Naomi Osaka may have also faced when she was deciding to come back. However, two things that pushed her to continue playing were making sure her daughter Shai could see her playing and have a memory of it.
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And the second thing was having role models who were also mothers but did not stop playing. One of the role models she has always had and many others like her is Serena Williams. But can you guess the other one?
The other role model that Naomi Osaka has except for Serena Williams
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In an interview before the WTA Abu Dhabi 2024, Naomi Osaka talked about how long she is going to stick around in the sport and what are the motivating factors for that in her life. Except for her daughter, another thing that pushes her to continue is her role models. Serena Williams continued playing even after she had Olympia, but there was one more player that she idolized except for her.
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Osaka shared, “I wish I could have played Li Na, because she’s my other role model that I loved growing up. I realize how important role models are in tennis and how lucky I am to have played Serena. But just to have those figureheads still in the game when you’re coming up is really cool. I feel like that’s something I would want to.”
Even though they have both left tennis now, the impact they made on young players while they were growing up has still stayed. When it comes to Li Na, the reason she left was quite unique and abrupt for her fans. Let’s take a look at what happened then.
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The reason why Li Na left tennis back in 2014
In an interview about a decade ago, Li Na had shared that she did not feel fit enough to play tennis and she felt sick every day, and that only made things worse for her. As much as she loved tennis, she did not want tennis to be the only thing in her life. Li Na shared, “I tried my best in my career. And now I cannot do that anymore, and so I say maybe now is the time because it’s a waste of time if you cannot train 100 percent but still play.”
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She also shared that she feels that playing tennis is like building a pyramid and it only works if you have a strong base. And she did not feel that she had one. While the Chinese star had to make an early exit, Naomi Osaka will hopefully have a long and fulfilling career!
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