Naomi Osaka is one of the brightest young stars in tennis and the highest earning female athlete in the world, but she remembers her rise to World No 1 as being underwhelming.
Osaka defeated former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to win the 2019 Australian Open title and ascend to the top of WTA rankings. She was the only women’s player, apart from Serena Williams, to win back-to-back majors in the last decade.
“I think nobody really acknowledged me as number one,” said the Japanese star at the Australian Open pre-tournament press conference.
“It just made me think people don’t really see me as number one. I just kept trying to prove myself. I felt like that wasn’t really a good mindset to have.
“If it comes to the point where I’m able to be number one again, I’ll embrace it, but I’m not really chasing it like that anymore.”
Osaka is the reigning US Open champion and is currently ranked No 3 in the world. She hopes to take a leaf out of Simona Halep’s playbook, and work towards being more consistent.
“I think that’s incredible,” she said of Halep, who has been ranked in the top 10 for 346 consecutive weeks. “I feel like I want to have that sort of consistency.
“My career, it’s been kind of up and down a lot, and people don’t really know when I’m going to do well in a tournament or when I’m not.
“I think my ultimate goal is just to at least reach the quarter-finals or better at every tournament I play, and hopefully win most of them.”
The 23-year-old will take on Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the opening round of the Australian Open. Osaka- Pavlyuchenkova clash will raise the curtains on the season’s first major, as they are scheduled to play the first match on the Rod Laver Arena.