Reem's Diary: New star is born at WTA Rising Stars in Osaka

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  • Naomi Osaka won the WTA Rising Stars Invitational.

    SINGAPORE — We still have a week ahead of us in Singapore but I think I already experienced the highlight of the WTA Finals thanks to the one and only Naomi Osaka.

    The 18-year-old Japanese-Haitian won the WTA Rising Stars Invitational on Sunday by beating French world No35 Caroline Garcia then gave a press conference that was a series of killer one-liners.

    Currently ranked No202 in the world, Osaka was completely unfazed by the fact that she beat a player ranked 167 spots higher than her in the WTA rankings and said she wasn’t surprised she defeated Garcia, despite going into the final with a 1-2 record in the round robin stage.

    Asked why she thought she would beat the Frenchwoman, Osaka said in a matter-of-fact manner: “This is a recent American term, but I didn’t want to be Meek‑Milled, like back‑to‑back losses.  I don’t like losing to the same person over and or again. So, yeah, sorry if anybody didn’t get that joke.”

    Her response warranted a quick visit to the Urban Dictionary website, which reminded me of how old I’m getting.

    The WTA Rising Stars was a new concept introduced to the WTA Finals last year where four young prospects – two from Asia and two from rest of the world – are invited to play in Singapore based on fan votes. The scoring format is Fast Four.

    Osaka said the whole experience was new to her mainly because she had to dress up and wear heels for the pre-event party and stayed up until 11pm once, which is two hours past her bedtime.

    On the dress she wore at the players’ party, Osaka said: “My sister found the dress because she likes looking for stuff and she’s great at finding stuff. It’s usually crazy. I was kind of surprised that it was good looking. No, seriously, she though, she’s kind of is Harajuku style. It’s all over the place.”

    I asked Osaka how she felt about the concept of the Rising Stars invitational and whether winning that trophy could somehow give her an extra push forward.

    “There is like thoughts and then like things that you can do. So I’m just going to think about it as a thought and not really try to make it affect me that much sort of,” was her cryptic answer, which she followed up with an apology in case I didn’t understand what she was trying to say.

    Osaka idolises Venus Williams, who is in Singapore as an alternate, and the teenager had a chance to meet with her on the sidelines of the tournament.

    “I wasn’t really talking. I was just kind of creeping her out,” Osaka says of her meeting with Venus.

    “But like she’s really nice. The void that I left because I wasn’t opening my mouth, I was just like that,” she added, giving a hilarious face of puffy cheeks and sealed lips.

    “She was like ‘talk’ and I was like ‘uh‑huh, yeah, uh‑huh’. I don’t really remember what we talked about because I was really freaked out.”

    Asked how much taking part in the invitational has given her a jolt of motivation to come back as a top-eight player for the WTA Finals, Osaka’s response was simple and indicative. She opened her arms wide and said: “This much.”

    With a scary forehand and her quirky personality, Osaka is definitely one to watch moving forward.