‘Naomi Osaka’ docuseries takes intimate look at tennis star


Those in search of definitive solutions about Naomi Osaka and the way she copes with the calls for of her profession and fame shouldn’t look forward to finding them in a brand new Netflix docuseries concerning the four-time Grand Slam champion.

It’s the tennis star’s unresolved questions which might be the guts of “Naomi Osaka,” director-producer Garrett Bradley mentioned of the collection that was taped over a two-year interval beginning with the 2019 U.S. Open. Production concluded in early 2021 earlier than Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open.

The three-part collection debuting Friday is a contemplative, intimate look at a younger athlete discovering her method.

Film of main tournaments, wins and losses, is interwoven with scenes of Osaka’s time with household and her boyfriend, the rapper Cordae; her coaching and enterprise calls for; Osaka’s reflections on her profession, multiracial id and the demise of mentor Kobe Bryant, and her choice to protest police killings of Black women and men.

“It was really important for me to not go into the project with an agenda or really even with an opinion,” Bradley, a 2021 Oscar nominee for the documentary “Time,” mentioned.

“I really tried to open myself up to her world and where she was at, and tried to understand the sort of essence of who she was.”

As filming progressed, she mentioned, it grew to become clear that the collection’ basis can be the conundrums confronted not solely by Osaka however society at giant.

Naomi Osaka posing with the 2021 Australian Open trophy. (Twitter/AusOpen)

Those inquiries are “connected to value systems and self-definition, and how one can create a more holistic understanding of themselves in any given environment that they find themselves in,” mentioned Bradley, whose fellow producers embrace LeBron James, beneath the umbrella of his SpringHill manufacturing firm.

Osaka, 23, who was not made out there for an interview, withdrew from the French Open final May, citing “huge waves of anxiety” earlier than talking to the media and revealing that she has suffered lengthy bouts of despair.

She additionally skipped the just-ended Wimbledon, together with her agent saying she needed private time, however is predicted to compete within the upcoming Tokyo Olympics for her native Japan. Osaka was only a few years previous when she, her sister and their Japanese mom and Haitian father moved to the United States.

In a Time journal essay printed July 8, Osaka wrote that, “Believe it or not, I am naturally introverted and do not court the spotlight. I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety.”

“I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel,” she mentioned, thanking Michelle Obama, Michael Phelps and different public figures for providing help.

The Netflix docuseries contains footage of Osaka and her sister, Mari, on the courtroom as kids, with the tennis star recalling spending at least eight hours a day at apply, including, “I was just tired.”

Mari Osaka, 25, additionally performed skilled tennis however mentioned in a social media put up in March that she was retiring from the game as a result of it was “a journey which I didn’t enjoy ultimately.” The docuseries sketches a portrait of Naomi Osaka as considerate and pushed to succeed however struggling to deal with her sport’s calls for and her future.

At one second of self-reflection she says, “So what am I, if not a good tennis player?”

Filmmaker Bradley cautions that the collection shouldn’t be seen as definitive, however slightly a snapshot of a quick interval in a life that continues to “evolve and grow.”

“This moment that we captured was her in the process of a learning curve, which I think she directly articulates really beautifully, (that) there are elements of fame that are hard to be prepared for,” Bradley mentioned.

“The sustenance that she finds is in accepting where she is currently in this moment, and certainly in her family and in her loved ones, but also is in finding her own voice. And that includes choosing when to use it and when not to.”

Asked how she perceived Osaka’s emotional well-being, Bradley mentioned she considers her “an incredibly strong and really brilliant person.”

“She’s in control of her own narrative, and I think that’s a beautiful thing,” she mentioned.


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