*World number three Naomi Osaka has will give up her US citizenship to represent Japan at next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.
Osaka, the 2018 U.S. Open champion, whose mother is Japanese and father is Haitian, was born in Japan but moved with her family to New York when she was 3. According to the Washington Post, Japan’s Nationality Act, calls for individuals who hold dual citizenship to choose one before their 22nd birthday. Osaka turns 22 on Wednesday Oct. 21
“It is a special feeling to aim for the Olympics as a representative of Japan,” she told Japanese broadcaster NHK. “I think that playing with the pride of the country will make me feel more emotional.”
Osaka won the China Open Sunday, playing for Japan both in the Fed Cup and on the WTA Tour, per CBS.com.
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Two-time tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has announced she has chosen Japanese citizenship in order to represent the hosts at the @Tokyo2020 Olympics.@Naomi_Osaka_ @ITF_Tennis #Tokyo2020https://t.co/oAdrKEFsk2
— Olympic Channel (@olympicchannel) October 10, 2019
Japan has never taken home a gold medal for tennis at the Olympics, but that may change with Osaka’s debut at the 2020 Games.
“I’m kind of looking forward to everything like the opening ceremony,” she told the Olympic Channel. “It’s also a very big honor to even be participating.”
Osaka has been offered plenty of endorsement opportunities from Japanese companies, but her decision to give up her U.S. citizenship isn’t linked to money, her mother said.
“We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age,” Tamaki Osaka told the Wall Street Journal a year ago. “She was born in Osaka and was brought up in a household of Japanese and Haitian culture. Quite simply, Naomi and her sister Mari have always felt Japanese, so that was our only rationale. It was never a financially motivated decision nor were we ever swayed either way by any national federation.”
Osaka became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam title after beating Serena Williams at the 2018 U.S. Open. She bagged her second Grand Slam title after defeating Petra Kvitova in the 2019 Australian Open.