Barely a year after her chaotic, emotional debut on the world stage — a victory over Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final — tennis star Naomi Osaka has declared that she will abandon her American citizenship and compete for Japan at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The No. 3-ranked player in the world was born in Japan but raised on Long Island by her Japanese mother and Haitian father.
Osaka holds dual citizenship but, under Japanese requirements, must choose one nationality over the other before turning 22, which will happen later this month.
“It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan,” she told NHK News. “I think it will be more emotional to play for the pride of the country.”
Osaka has competed under the Japanese flag on the WTA Tour and has represented that country in the Fed Cup dating back to 2017. The Japan Tennis Assn. lists her as a national team member.
Her 2018 U.S. Open victory — marked by Williams berating the chair umpire and a tearful Osaka apologizing for beating the crowd favorite — was followed by another Grand Slam title at the 2019 Australian Open. Most recently, she defeated top-ranked Ashleigh Barty at the 2019 China Open in Beijing.
“I can play well on the big stage, so there are also expectations for myself at the Tokyo Olympics,” Osaka was quoted as saying. “I am worried because of the high expectations from the surroundings, but I want to play like me and get a gold medal.”