‘The face of tennis for years to come’: Naomi Osaka attracts the big sponsors

Japan's Naomi Osaka kisses a trophy that will be forever tarnished by memories of her opponent's tempestuous tantrum.

Japan's Naomi Osaka kisses a trophy that will be forever tarnished by memories of her opponent's tempestuous tantrum. Photo: EPA/John Mabanglo

After her breakthrough triumph at the US Open, world No.7 Naomi Osaka is set to become one of the highest-paid female athletes after record sponsorship deals.

On Thursday, the Nissan Motor Corporation announced 20-year-old Osaka as their newest brand ambassador after she won her first final and first grand slam at Flushing Meadows on September 8.

And she is reportedly set to sign an estimated $US8.5 million ($11.8 million) sponsorship deal with Adidas, a figure The Times says is the clothing and footwear giant’s biggest with a female athlete.

Osaka’s win in New York was overshadowed by an explosive row between her opponent, world No.1 Serena Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos, which resulted in the 23-times grand slam champion being docked a game and fined $US17,000 ($23,660).

“This week has been a dream come to life, and I’m so honored to represent Japan and Nissan on the world stage,” Osaka said, five days after being thrust into the spotlight over Williams’ meltdown.

“I was drawn to partner with Nissan because of its strong Japanese DNA and global competitive spirit. The brand is always challenging expectations, and I look forward to bringing its vision for driving excitement to new audiences around the world.”

Nissan senior vice president Asako Hoshino said Osaka was “not afraid to take on the biggest tennis players of our time, and win”.

“This is the same spirit of performance that Nissan has embodied throughout our history,” he said.

Forbes’ MoneySport list estimates the biracial Japanese player (she is the daughter of a Haitian father and Japanese mother), to rake in $15 million in off-the-court earnings after her dramatic victory over Williams in New York.

In the eyes of marketers, Forbes says her win “allows her to become the face of tennis for years to come”.

“The Open’s finale couldn’t have come at a better time: Osaka’s deal with Adidas expires at the end of 2018.”

“Her new asking price for endorsements should be at least $5 million per year,” Forbes wrote.

Fallout continues from Osaka, Williams match

Graceful in victory after winning the grand slam final against Williams (6-2, 6-4), Osaka was reduced to tears as she accepted the trophy and prize money after the controversial match.

Williams’ meltdown included smashing her racket and arguing with the experienced Portuguese, verbally abusing and calling him a “thief” and a “liar”.

Osaka turned her back on the heated exchange.

Much of the criticism of 36-year-old Williams has centred on how her actions had spoiled a precious moment for Osaka, who was even moved to apologise for beating the home favourite to a New York crowd angrily booing Ramos.

On Friday, the US Tennis Association’s chief executive Katrina Adams reportedly “backflipped” on support for Williams, overheard apologising to Ramos.

Born in 1997, Osaka moved to the US aged just three. She turned pro in 2013, and qualified at the age of 16 for the Women’s Tennis Association tour championship, debuting at the Bank of the West Classic in California.

In 2016, Osaka qualified for her first Grand Slam tournament, the Australian Open, and made it into the third round. In the same season, she reached the third round of the French Open and the US Open.

In October 2016, she was the runner-up at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, where the performance earned her the title of “WTA Newcomer of the Year.”

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