Serena Williams Australian Open 2021

‘Serena Williams has literally built champions,’ reveals Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka has praised 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams for ‘building champions’ after revealing she started playing tennis because of the American. 

Osaka, who already has four Grand Slams to her name at the age of 23, is taking a break from the sport after her defeat to Leylah Fernandez in the US Open third round.

Despite her absence, Osaka admitted she is ‘itching’ to make her return and took time to praise her idol, who she credited as the reason many female players started their tennis careers.

“If I were to retire from tennis, I would want people to remember me with how I acted towards people and like how I interacted,” she told HBO’s The Shop.

“Serena. Her legacy is more than her being Serena. I started playing because of her. I’m sure there’s so many other girls that started playing because of her, so she literally built champions.

“And I think passing it down is how the newer generations get inspired.”

Williams, who has not competed since slipping on Centre Court in the first round of Wimbledon in July, is still bidding to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slams.

Even if she doesn’t lift another Grand Slam title, her coach Patrick Mouratoglou says her legacy in the sport will be unmatched.

“She changed tennis,” he told AFP. “She brought an athletic dimension that there was not there at all, she opened the doors, with her sister Venus, to a whole generation of players because it was a white sport.

“She invented tennis intimidation because she has a presence that makes others fear her. For a very long time, it was impressive.

“She also brought the business to women’s tennis.

“Before her, the business was very small and with her it became huge because she has such an aura, she has become such a marketing object, too, that huge contracts are possible for the players.”

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.