Japan will have a new champion on Monday.
After winning her first grand slam by besting the indomitable Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open, Naomi Osaka made history as the world's first Asian of any gender to become the world's number 1.
Cameras captured Osaka's emotional victory on Saturday after she beat her opponent and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4.
Relishing in her triumph, the 21-year-old Japanese-Haitian tennis star collapsed into a crouching position on the court and covered her face, which was streaming with tears of joy, before collecting herself to greet Kvitova.
It was Osaka's moment to have. And it was stunning to witness the instant transformation of a quirky personality into a global champion.
What a moment. @Naomi_Osaka_ wins her second Grand Slam in a row 🏆🏆 #AusOpen https://t.co/9TTskXIH9E— #AusOpen (@#AusOpen)1548501466.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Congratulations Naomi!🏆🏆🏆❤️🥰 https://t.co/CNnX8F74PE— 🌅 (@🌅)1548501579.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Congrats Naomi! I'm very happy for 🏆you deserved it because you are a very well-educa… https://t.co/Px5EGREvR1— Boba Tošić (@Boba Tošić)1548503836.0
Osaka lost the second set but rebounded to claim her newly minted ranking as the world's number 1. Both women were praised for their exciting match.
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Well done to both ladies, both your journeys have been incredible. You both should be… https://t.co/h9Jul4SAsx— Jacqui Jacobus (@Jacqui Jacobus)1548502768.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Fabulous tennis. Fabulous final. Intense. Congratulations to both players. You are bo… https://t.co/dAcjcrBilY— McDonald (@McDonald)1548503213.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ A legendary match by both two splendid athletes. Thank you👏👏👏👏👏— Holey Mac🇯🇵 (@Holey Mac🇯🇵)1548502194.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Was rooting for Petra, but Naomi showed such an amazing mental strength!!! She manage… https://t.co/IJEyqubpl3— monbaby (@monbaby)1548503148.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Wanted Petra to win so bad 💔 , but Naomi deserved it 🖤— SamaKo (@SamaKo)1548501668.0
This user noticed eloquence from a cultural gesture.
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Did you notice Naomi bowed to Petra before hugging? That’s beauty of Japanese culture… https://t.co/Kz8T7gWBqH— Gojiro (@Gojiro)1548526846.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Big day for Young gun of japan @Naomi_Osaka_. She's doing great job of inspiring Asia… https://t.co/fZdNWJQaTi— Pαɯαɳ Sαƚყαɳαɾαყαɳ Rαʂαʅ (@Pαɯαɳ Sαƚყαɳαɾαყαɳ Rαʂαʅ)1548503437.0
While Osaka admitted she didn't have confidence in public speaking, she showed otherwise by giving a humble speech and thanking her worthy opponent first.
"Huge congrats to you, Petra. You're really amazing and I'm so honored to have played you."
"To my team, I don't think I would have made it through this week behind you guys. Behind a tennis player is always a team so I'm really grateful."
She was at a loss for words but owned it by admitting she forgot what else she "supposed to say." Osaka concluded her speech like a pro and with class.
"So just thank you everyone and I'm really honored to have played in this final."
"Huge congrats to Petra. I've always wanted to play you. You've been through so much, honestly I wouldn't have want… https://t.co/WYmmNjkWHt— #AusOpen (@#AusOpen)1548502977.0
Many couldn't help but comment on the likeable athlete being so humble, but she earned higher marks for keeping it real.
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ So refreshing to have such a humble and dignified champion. Both Naomi and… https://t.co/cM7TXHqItn— Boleyn Badger (@Boleyn Badger)1548503206.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Honest, humble, gracious and humorous. Legend in making 👌👌— Sumit MeCher (@Sumit MeCher)1548512638.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Powerful that she is very humble and the first thing she does is congratulate her com… https://t.co/N2JE3iTRnI— Jonas (@Jonas)1548516015.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Congratulations @naomi_osaka_ Nice speech. Keeping being exactly who you are.— Sheila D Isbell (@Sheila D Isbell)1548509624.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Such a darling...her simplicity and honesty tugs at your heart strings...just adore her!— Sunita Sigtia (@Sunita Sigtia)1548505209.0
The Japanese expressed their pride with comments ranging from "You conquered!," "Amazing!," to "Congratulations and thank you. Now get some rest."
@AustralianOpen @hm_ayasuke @Naomi_Osaka_ なおみやったぜ！— ナイスさりりん (@ナイスさりりん)1548501813.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ なおみおめでとうありがとうよく寝て— マイク (@マイク)1548503185.0
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ 素晴らしい。— 伊藤雄一 (@伊藤雄一)1548503354.0
Osaka was born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother. After moving to the U.S. at the age of three, she began her training after her father was inspired by watching the Williams sisters.
Outside of the court, the world-class athlete is making a huge cultural impact.
Shihoko Goto, a senior Northeast Asia Associate at the Wilson Center's Asia Program, told Al Jazeera that Osaka has been "embraced by the Japanese as one of theirs," despite a small demographic of Japanese citizens who do not view her as one of their own due to her bi-racial heritage and being insufficiently fluent in her native language.
But her rising stardom is challenging perceptions and expectations.
"She has certainly lifted the visibility and acceptance of mixed-race Japanese," Goto added.
"What's also interesting about her is that she has lived mostly outside Japan and speaks very little Japanese. She is challenging the definition of what it means to be Japanese in terms of race as well as cultural identity."
"She is a spearhead for discussions about who and what makes someone Japanese."
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ Naomi chan, congratulations! Omedeto!!— RuoKa (@RuoKa)1548504267.0
The tennis world immediately recognized Osaka's star-making potential with her agility and poise on the court. Her reputation solidified after beating Serena Williams at September's U.S. Open women's singles finals.
When PEOPLE asked the then-20-year-old if she was anxious to go head-to-head with Williams, she said she wasn't nervous "because I played her once before."
"The reason why I would be nervous was because I've never played a finals before. Otherwise, when I stepped onto the court I felt completely fine. When I play, I feel like a different person so I felt pretty comfortable."
A year ago, Osaka held the 72nd world ranking. Currently, the young tennis prodigy holds the number 5 spot, but that will change on Monday when the new tennis rankings are updated to reflect her top position.
@AustralianOpen @Naomi_Osaka_ This moment. All hers. Congratulations, @Naomi_Osaka_— Maia (@Maia)1548502840.0
Tennis Australia called Osaka "the pre-eminent force in women's tennis" and highlighted her profile as the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to consecutively win two major titles.
"I feel like it hasn't really sunk in," she admitted.
"Maybe in the next tournament I play, if I see the No.1 next to my name, I'll feel something. But for now, I'm more happy that I won this trophy."