When third-seed Naomi Osaka defeated Jennifer Brady in the Australian Open last month, she did so with consummate ease.
It stretched her winning run to 21 games, and she won the trophy by dropping just one set in the whole tournament. On the way, she defeated Serena Williams in straight sets, as well as the convincing final win against Brady, the 22nd seed.
It was her fourth Grand Slam title win, following on from the US Open last year, and has now marked her out as a great for women’s tennis, by someone considered as something of an all-time great on-court. Boris Becker, a five-time Grand Slam winner and still the youngest ever to lift the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, claims the 23-year-old has proven herself to be the next Serena Williams, a leader of the women’s field.
“Naomi Osaka is becoming more than just a tennis player, and that is great for women’s tennis,” he is reported by Tennishead.net as saying. “Not just a player who looks better than the pack right now, but as a confident young woman prepared to speak out on wider issues – she is looking like a genuine superstar.”
Becker is known for backing winners on-court, and off it. He moved into playing poker after his stellar tennis career ended, with Poker.org detailing that in 2007 he signed as a PokerStars Team Pro member. In 2020 he moved on to GGPoker and is still a major face in that particular industry. His profile is not purely built on a house of cards though, it has a foundation back in the mid-eighties with his 1985 Wimbledon win, a tournament he triumphed in on three occasions. It is also a competition Osaka has generally failed in, never getting past the third round, but Becker believes this is only a temporary situation.
“In terms of her tennis success it has been largely limited to hardcourts, but I am sure she will win Wimbledon one day,” he added. “She is much more likely to triumph there than at the French Open with the way she plays. She just has to learn how to play on grass, because she has the natural weapons to excel on it.”
Becker is not the only successful pro to recognize the star potential in Osaka. Chris Evert won 17 Grand Slam events, including six US Open titles and seven French Open triumphs between 1974 and 1982. She coached Osaka prior to 2020 and after her maiden Australian Open win, Evert could see her potential.
“When you look at her result, and her ability, this (Australian Open win) has been the most amazing moment for Naomi Osaka, she had three match points, lost the second set, and she regrouped over ten minutes,” Evert told Tennis World USA. “I have never seen a 21-year-old do that.”
Even Serena Williams vanquished in the semi-finals in February, called Osaka an ‘incredible opponent’ in the run-up to their game, adding she does ‘everything well’, from service to return. That is high praise indeed, coming from arguably the best female player in a generation.
With legends from the men’s game and women’s game joining in the praise, the winning streak Naomi Osaka finds herself on could be one that sets her up for a terrific career. Considering she already has four Grand Slam titles to her name; the rest of the women’s roster should be very afraid indeed.