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."
Michael B. Jordan Responds With Video Message After Naomi Osaka Admits To Ellen That He's Her Crush ❤️
Naomi Osaka's win over Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open may be remembered for the controversies involving sexism and racism towards Williams but, through it all, no one doubted Osaka's status as a sportswoman who deserved her win.
Following the victory, Osaka appeared on The Ellen Show, where the host asked if she had a celebrity crush.
Her answer: Michael B. Jordan, of course. But little did Osaka know that DeGeneres literally had his number in her phone.
When Osaka revealed she had a celebrity crush on Black Panther star Michael B. Jordan, Ellen said:
"You can make it happen, you're very famous now!"
The comedienne then posed for a selfie with Osaka, which she sent to Jordan from her cell phone!
.@Naomi_Osaka_ won the #USOpen. Now she has her eyes set on @MichaelB4Jordan. https://t.co/kSoqNzZvgZ— Ellen DeGeneres (@Ellen DeGeneres)1536770042.0
Later, on her Twitter feed, Ellen posted Jordan's video response to Osaka, which was heartwarming to say the least.
I texted @MichaelB4Jordan about @Naomi_Osaka_. Obvi he responded. https://t.co/NNwq2iBcaK— Ellen DeGeneres (@Ellen DeGeneres)1536773582.0
Jordan told Osaka:
"Ellen hit me up and told me she was having you on the show, so I wanted to send my love and support and just say congratulations. It's a big moment for you, and the way you carry yourself with such humility and grace, it's really amazing to see."
Naomi Osaka got a text from Michael B. Jordan. I wouldn't know what to do with myself 😩 https://t.co/862wOodmBZ— theGrio.com (@theGrio.com)1536890321.0
He went on:
"Just know that all the hard work, the blood, sweat, and tears that you put into this sport, that you put into your journey, people are finally being able to see — and that's a big thing to be proud of. Keep being great, everybody's watching now — me too."
Twitter shipped it in a big way.
Actually... Naomi Osaka and Michael B Jordan would make a cute ass couple 🤔🤔🤔— saint kim ✿ (@saint kim ✿)1536897697.0
@Naomi_Osaka_ Lmao this is the cutest interview ever! Waiting for Michael B Jordan and you to go on a date now!— Zubair Maqsood (@Zubair Maqsood)1536792097.0
naomi osaka freaking out about ellen trying to set her up with michael b jordan is the cutest thing i've ever seen… https://t.co/rjcXEydY6j— ellie (@ellie)1536767747.0
How lucky is Michael B Jordan? https://t.co/opJeK4MeOl— Reem Abulleil (@Reem Abulleil)1536764190.0
@BET Good for her. She took the cute one👌🏼— Okereke Francisca®🌹 (@Okereke Francisca®🌹)1536864349.0
Well, the people who weren't actively pursuing Jordan themselves did, anyway.
Ellen attempted to match-make Naomi Osaka and Michael B. Jordan and hey Ellen I am ALSO trying to get set-up with M… https://t.co/CcPf4Q6IRS— mat whitehead (@mat whitehead)1536790460.0
Here's hoping a date happens...but in the busy worlds of international sports and Hollywood blockbusters, who knows whether their schedules will allow it?
So Michael B. Jordan really not gon take Naomi Osaka out on a date??? I am so disappointed.— Nita, CPA (@Nita, CPA)1536872411.0
Osaka also appeared on NBC's Today Show and spoke about what it was like winning such a controversial U.S. Open final:
"I know that it wasn't really — the ending wasn't how people wanted it to be. I know that in my dreams I won in a very tough, competitive match. I don't know. I just felt very emotional. I felt like I had to apologize."
But if there's one thing everyone agrees on, it's that Osaka has nothing to apologize for.
That beautiful moment Serena Williams asked the fans to stop booing Naomi Osaka at the US Open Finals 2018 celebrat… https://t.co/7iMqtFZhf9— Bubbles247 Media (@Bubbles247 Media)1536495258.0
Keep being great, Osaka. You've caught Michael B. Jordan's eye, so you must be doing something very, VERY right!
@EBONYMag Miss Naomi Osaka...dreams do come true. May God continue to bless you and your family.— Katherine (@Katherine)1536851485.0
Ellen DeGeneres is playing cupid for US Open winner Naomi Osaka and her celebrity crush, Michael B. Jordan! Do y… https://t.co/kRYBpDoe0V— Dish Nation (@Dish Nation)1536877141.0