Upcoming Naomi Osaka biography attributes her severe depression to father's pressure


An upcoming biography by sportswriter Ben Rothenberg on Naomi Osaka discusses the purported toll of parental pressure on the tennis superstar’s mental well-being.

About the book: Rothenberg, a tennis expert and senior editor for Racquet magazine, has covered the 26-year-old star athlete since her emergence on the WTA Tour in 2014.

“Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice,” set to be released on Jan. 9, 2024, explores Osaka's struggles with severe depression and feelings of inferiority. The biography attributes these challenges to the relentless pressure exerted by her father, Leonard Francois.

The roots of pressure: According to the book, Francois's dream of emulating the success of Venus and Serena Williams led the family from New York to Florida.

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“The blueprint was already there. I just had to follow it,” he told The New York Times in 2018.

Osaka's upbringing in poverty was purportedly shaped by the subsequent challenges that came with her parents' pursuit of tennis fame. Struggling with crippling shyness and limited social development, Osaka found solace in beating her older sister in tennis.

"I don't remember liking to hit the ball," the author quoted Osaka as saying. "The main thing was that I wanted to beat my sister."

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Price of success: Even after defeating Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open, Osaka found herself overwhelmed with emotions, confessing, "I don't know what this feeling is. I don't know how to describe it and how to fix it."

Rothenberg notes in his book that Osaka questioned whether her victories were acceptable and fulfilling and demonstrated a lingering dissatisfaction despite her status then as the world's No. 1 female player and highest-paid female athlete.

"I just woke up one day in Charleston before one of my matches thinking what is the point of my life," Osaka was quoted as saying. "I was thinking, 'Should I just go buy a farm and grow crops?' And then I had to go play my match and I was thinking in my head – like, wow, 'I hope this girl beats me so I don't have to be here anymore.'"

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Osaka's inner turmoil: The biography further offers hints at the complexities behind Osaka’s seemingly glamorous life. The author delves into what Osaka has revealed in the past as her dual voices – the soft-spoken and positive "she" contrasted with the stern and critical voice on the tennis court.

The book also touches on Osaka's personal life, including her relationship with rapper Cordae and the self-doubt and loneliness she experiences during her first months as a mother.


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