Most of the professional individual sports tours around the world gradually draw to a finish around December as the curtain comes down on a hard-fought year. For the majority, it is a time of rest and relaxation during the festive season as they enjoy a well-earned break over Christmas with family and friends. Tennis is the exception though, given that the Australian Open falls in early January every year so instead of tucking into some mulled wine and mince pies, the tour’s best are working day and night in the hope of winning the year’s first Grand Slam.
Naturally, some may be a bit more disciplined than others when the Christmas pudding is passed around the table, but you can be sure that Naomi Osaka will be politely declining. The 22-year-old is one of the most driven players on tour and the results are there for all to see, with her having won two Grand Slams already. It hasn’t always been an easy ride for the Japanese player, though.
2019 was probably the best year of my life. Even though at times it really tested me 😩 I learned a lot this year and I realized I have great influence over the things that can happen to me. Excited for the things in 2020, (both on and off the court). Love you guys 🤗❤️ pic.twitter.com/ZqbcCqRlm1— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) November 3, 2019
Who can forget Osaka's first Grand Slam win at the US Open in 2018, when she was forced to endure a chorus of boos after beating the crowd favorite Serena Williams? In a shameful sporting display, the American crowd ruined the prize-giving for Osaka who was 21 at the time, which prompted her to apologize for the result of the match.
The crowd's anger was all down to what they perceived as unfair treatment of Williams during the game by umpire Carlos Ramos. Few will ever forget the sight of a crying and distraught Osaka covering her face with her hat as the atmosphere turned toxic in what should have been the happiest day of her life.
There was a much better reception for Osaka in Australia after she won the 2019 event and boy did she deserve to revel in the limelight without hearing jeering from the stands. The hope is that she will be able to defend her title in 2020 but at 8/1 in Australian Open betting odds, Osaka certainly has her work cut out for her.
Serena Williams is still very much the woman to beat and will go in as the favorite, but it looks more and more likely that Osaka will assume the throne of women’s tennis once Williams retires.
Ashleigh Barty will also be standing in Osaka’a way in Australia and will undoubtedly have the lion's share of support being the local favorite. Barty shouldn't be taken lightly either after having shown she can get it done in Grand Slams after a stunning French Open win in 2019.
Make no mistake, the 23-year-old will be there or thereabouts come the end and it’s not impossible to imagine Osaka having to endure another partisan crowd in the final should she meet the talented Barty there.
Words can’t describe this feeling. pic.twitter.com/MUMtR5stV1— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) January 26, 2019
It will be all to play for come the start of 2020 as the tennis season gets off to an instant bang in Melbourne. The Christmas and New Year period will be the calm before the storm that is another sensational season of women’s tennis.