A teen bopper hits the big time

Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Tennis

The youngest of two tennis-playing daughters born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, Osaka moved to New York when she was young so the family could be near her father's relatives. She has U.S. and Japanese citizenship and represents Japan although she doesn't speak the language fluently; she takes post-match questions from Japanese media in Japanese but is more comfortable replying in English. She grew up on Long Island, not far from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, so winning here was a special moment for her.

"When we were little, we would come to the U.S. Open every year and even to practice. Sometimes I would play here," she said. "So the site feels really familiar to me. It's like nostalgic every time I come here, so I'm always really happy to play here."

She's not always happy with herself, though she's working on that. Her coach, David Taylor, is playing a big role there.

"He talks to me a lot about positivity because I tend to be really negative on myself and to the point where I don't really know what I'm doing anymore," she said. "So, like, since Toronto, I would say, I have been being really solid about that."

She will test her new resolve against the winner of Wednesday's match between Denisa Allertova of the Czech Republic and Rebecca Peterson of Sweden.

"I feel like I'm the type of player that does better the more tournaments I play in a row or the more matches, because I learn from the last match and then try to carry that over to the next matches," Osaka said, speaking softly but making her point loud and clear.

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