Future Watch Special Edition: Naomi Osaka Tennis Cards, AP Female Athlete of the Year – There are few athletes in tennis who have transcended their sport in recent years. Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are those that immediately come to mind. Naomi Osaka is quickly joining this elite class and, to be quite blunt, could very well surpass all three superstars very soon.
Osaka has become the first Asian tennis pro to achieve number one ranking by the WTA, closed the 2020 campaign at number three, and has three Open championship wins (US Open – 2018, 2020; Australian Open – 2019). The power Osaka possesses is almost unheard of. On serve alone, her strikes can reach 124 mph. For comparison sake, the fastest pitches don’t break 110.
At just 23 years of age, she has been called one of the most marketable women in all of sport, and she has taken a direct focus on growing her personal brand with inspirations beyond the court. “I always look outside tennis to see how other athletes are training and conducting themselves,” she told Forbes. “It’s no secret that some of the athletes that I have looked to in shaping my career are non-tennis players. I’m a big basketball fan, and what James Harden has done in the NBA over the last few years has been amazing. He’s definitely one of the most exciting players in the league, so being a part of this spot with him was really fun. I was also lucky enough to shoot this campaign on the same day as Skylar [before the pandemic], so we got to spend some quality time together. She is really down-to-earth, and we got along great.”
Her on-court achievements alone would have given her high consideration for recognition by the Associated Press; but like LeBron James, who was named the AP Male Athlete of the Year, Osaka used her exposure to bring about conversation surrounding incidents occurring in the U.S. Throughout the U.S. Open, which as mentioned she won, Osaka wore masks displaying the names of police brutality victims, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She also refused to play late in a tennis competition at one point, which got the WTA to sit up and join other sports in halting competition.
“Watching the police injustices like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake [to name just a few] in the summer broke my heart,” she said in an email interview with the Los Angeles Times. “I am proud of my U.S. Open victory, but more so that I got people talking about the real issues.”
The collecting world has flocked to Osaka as best they can. To date, she has very limited cardboard available, including a couple cards from 2020 Topps Transcendent Tennis, one of which was her first autograph. Her first card, like Tiger Woods back in his day, came courtesy of Sports Illustrated for Kids in 2018.
The future, it goes without saying, looks extremely bright for Naomi Osaka, and her profile will not only increase for herself, but for her sport and her causes as well.
Future Watch Special Edition: Naomi Osaka Tennis Cards, AP Female Athlete of the Year – Additional Resources
- Naomi Osaka WTATennis.com Player Profile
- Naomi Osaka – Secondary Market Pricing
- Beckett Card Catalog – Naomi Osaka Tennis Cards
Future Watch Special Edition: Naomi Osaka Cards – Image Gallery
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