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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.




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.







This user noticed eloquence from a cultural gesture.





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."


Many couldn't help but comment on the likeable athlete being so humble, but she earned higher marks for keeping it real.





The Japanese expressed their pride with comments ranging from "You conquered!," "Amazing!," to "Congratulations and thank you. Now get some rest."




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."



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."

She added:

"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.



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."

Congratulations, Naomi!

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