Who are Leonard Francois and Tamaki Osaka? How Naomi Osaka's parents have fiercely supported her tennis dreams
Shocking the world of tennis, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is currently World No 2, made headlines after she pulled out of the French Open citing her mental health. Her decision followed the penalty of $15,000 that was slapped and threats of expulsion after she skipped the post-match press conferences.
Osaka identifies as a Black Asian because her father Leonard Francois, hails from Haiti and her mother, Tamaki Osaka, is from Japan. Naomi was born in Osaka. The couple moved to Long Island to live with Francois' family when Naomi was three but despite spending most of her life in the US, Naomi Osaka says she doesn't identify as American. "I don’t necessarily feel like I’m American. I wouldn’t know what that feels like," she said in a 2018 interview. "Japanese culture? I love everything about it... And Haiti, if you’ve ever met a Haitian person, they are really positive, and literally, if you’re friends with them, then they will do anything for you. That’s something that is a really good trait, and I’m really happy that my grandparents and my dad’s side of the family is like that."
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Osaka's parents are her biggest supporters
Naomi Osaka's parents are her biggest fans. The family later moved to Florida to find better training opportunities for Osaka. After Osaka beat Serena Williams in 2018, she went straight to her mother and shared an extremely emotional moment as she hugged her.
Afterward, Osaka posted about her parents and their support: "Also if I could, I want to thank my parents and the crew. Literally these past 2 weeks in NY have been very tough so S/O to them." "She is very close to her family," Lindsay Davenport said of Osaka during a segment on the Tennis Channel. "Her parents have done a remarkable job the last few years, grooming this superstar and then stepping back and letting her live her life."
Osaka has also spoken about her mother's influence. “Growing up, I saw my mother work incredibly hard to support me and my passion for play. She always put others first and encouraged me to embrace my diversity," she said in a statement about her tennis academy
How Osaka's father became her coach
Although her father did not belong to a tenis background, Francois took inspiration from the Williams sisters. Just like Richard Williams, tennis coach, and the father of Venus and Serena Williams, Francois watched videos and had Osaka hit thousands of balls a day. Francois continues to follow his daughters' training and matches closely.
In 2019, Osaka parted ways with her then-coach Jermaine Jenkins and her father stepped in temporarily to coach her. She joked at the time that her father's support was both important and frustrating and she was deliberating on bringing on another coach to replace him. “Yeah, he’s so annoying. Oh, my God [laughter]. Do you hear his on-court coaching? I can’t believe it. He runs up to the bench talking about, 'Be calm. That’s it. He doesn’t give me any tactics. I can’t believe this. I was so mad [laughter].” Apparently, Francois couldn't watch her play, preferring to catch glimpses of the live coverage of the game on TV.
She did, however, appreciated the freedom she got when being coached by her father. "Yeah, for me, he kind of lets me do my own thing, which I like. Also, I feel like I need structure a little bit because if I do my own thing for too long, I don’t know, I feel like I need guidance or advice from someone, you know?” Last year, a Wim Fissette was added to her team as a coach.