Naomi Osaka is a four-time Grand Slam singles champion. She’s currently #43 in the world after an early exit in 2021, followed by a rough 2022 season. Given age and skill she looks destined for a rebound.
Osaka has a chance to be a dominant women’s singles player for a long time. One of her greatest “X-factors” is her parents, Leonard Francois, and Tamaki Osaka. Her parents are her biggest fans and greatest boosters. They’ve helped shape her tennis career on and off the court.
1. Naomi’s Dad Is Haitian
Leonard Francois is a driving force behind his daughter’s success. Leonard is a child of Haitian parents. Born in Jacmel, Haiti, he grew up in the United States after his parents immigrated. Francois keeps his background mostly private.
His daughters are his fame in the world of tennis. Many of the details about him that would normally be public, including his exact date of birth, are private. Since he met Tamaki Osaka in college and Mari was born in 1996, he was born no later than 1977.
2. Naomi’s Mom Is Japanese
Tamaki Osaka was raised in the coastal town of Nemuro, Hokkaido. She went to high school in Sapporo, the capital of the island. While she was in high school, she met and fell in love with Leonard Francois. He was in Japan on break from New York University. Tamaki Osaka’s parents disapproved of her relationship.
Her romance with Leonard Francois continued in secret for years until she was in her early 20s. Her parents started looking to matchmake her with potential suitors. This was when she finally admitted she was dating a foreigner. Her parents refused to accept the relationship. As a result, the couple relocated to Osaka. In Osaka, they married and had their children. Mari arrived in April 1996. Naomi followed in October 1997.
3. Osaka Credits Her Father For Her Success
Leonard Francois was his daughter’s tennis coach from early childhood until the 2018 season. He returned to coach her in 2022 after two years with Wim Fissette. Her time with Fissette ended in her withdrawal from the 2021 season.
Naomi’s 2022 season was far from the best of her career. It ended with her split from Fissette. On August 2, 2022, Naomi announced that her new coach would be her old coach. Her father, Leonard Francois.
4. The Girls Chose Osaka As Their Last Name Because It Helped In Japan
Japan is a very insular culture as nations go. From the 17th Century until the 19th, Japan chose a strict policy of separatism. The Tokugawa shogunate closed Japan to the outside world in 1630. This lasted until the Perry Expedition.
Four American warships arrived in Tokyo in 1852. Japan opened its ports under the guns of the Americans. Many Japanese people never accepted global trade. This suspicion grew in the 20th Century after World War II.
5. Leonard Francois Also Coached Mari Osaka
Mari Osaka, also coached by her father, is a retired professional tennis player. She was her sister’s doubles partner until her retirement. After retiring, Mari said that she didn’t enjoy tennis very much.
Mari credited a close relationship with her father for her success in the game. Mari peaked at 280 in 2018. After a 2018 injury, Mari fell off to 350 after her recovery and attempted return to the game. She announced her retirement from tennis on March 9, 2021, after a 7-6, 6-4 defeat to Sarah Hamner.
6. Tamaki Osaka And Her Parents Reconciled In 2011
The elder Osakas were not pleased by their daughter’s relationship with an American. This grew worse when it turned from a summer fling into something more. When Tamaki Osaka announced her intention to marry Leonard Francois, she was disowned by her parents.
The estrangement lasted for more than a decade. Tamaki Osaka’s parents finally met their grandchildren when they were in early secondary school. By the time Naomi Osaka had her professional debut in September 2013, her grandparents were in her life. Naomi’s grandfather, Tetsuo, is now one of her biggest boosters.
7. Leonard Francois Let His Daughters Choose Their Professional Names
Mari and Naomi Osaka both use their mother’s surname, Osaka, as their professional surnames. This caused speculation about their relationship with their father.
Francois gave his daughters the freedom to choose the name that represented both their mother and the place they were born. They also chose to represent Japan in tennis internationally, rather than the United States, where they received little support.
8. Leonard’s Parents Supported Their Son And Daughter-In-Law
When Naomi was 3 years old, her parents moved from Osaka to New York. Moving from the second largest city in Japan to the largest city on the United States was an adjustment of its own. They lived with Francois’s family on Long Island. Growing up, Naomi and Mari spoke Haitian creole at home. Their grandparents didn’t speak English.
Tamaki Osaka made sure that her daughters never forgot their Japanese roots. She made sure that they lived with Japanese clothing and food as well as American and Haitian. Naomi Osaka credits her connection to Japan to her mother’s influence. Naomi has said that she doesn’t feel American inside,. This is because she grew up strongly connected to Japan and Haiti.
9. Leonard Francois Never Played Professional Tennis
Leonard Francois was an amateur tennis player and tennis fan, but he has never played tennis professionally. He became a tennis coach without playing professionally after seeing the success that Serena and Venus Williams had with their father.
Richard Williams, Jr. was the model Leonard Francois based his coaching style on. He guided Naomi and Mari into tennis from an early age. Naomi admitted later that she wasn’t big on hitting the ball. However, she was always motivated by the chance to beat her elder sister.
Naomi Osaka’s family shapes who she is. Her success on the tennis court begins with her parents. The support of her grandparents on both sides of her family has given her strength in her career. She hopes to return to the top of the WTA rankings with her father coaching her.