Good news for teenager Naomi Osaka, who has made her debut in WTA top 50 this week after her run at Toray Pan Pacific Open, her home country tournament. The IMG company announced that they’ve signed with the teen a “worldwide marketing and management agreement”, as reported by journalist Jon Wertheim on Twitter.
Osaka has probably convinced the agency to propose the agreement with her recent performance at both U.S. Open and Toray Pan Pacific Open, where she confirmed her role as a major threat on the WTA tour for the times to come.
Osaka’s road to Tokyo
The Japanese teenager had already put herself under a spotlight in 2015, when she ended her tennis season with a final at 125k event in Hua Hin and, more than that, with her trophy at the Rising Star Invitational event at the WTA Finals in Singapore, where she won the title by prevailing on Caroline Garcia in the final.
She made her Grand Slam debut by qualifying for 2016 Australian Open, knocking out Donna Vekic and 18th seed Elina Svitolina in the first rounds, but then suffering a harsh defeat by former champion Victoria Azarenka, who got rid of her with a double 6-1.
She repeated her performance by reaching the third round at the French Open, this time, stopped by former finalist Simona Halep in three sets. An injury forced her out of Wimbledon, and despite a not so brilliant start on the hard-court season, she almost performed a huge upset at the U.S. Open, getting close to the first top-ten win of her career while she was 5-1 up in the deciding set against Madison Keys. The more-experienced American eventually prevailed, but the disappointing loss didn’t discourage Osaka, as two weeks later she finally reached the first WTA final of her career at Toray Pan Pacific Open, surrendering to Caroline Wozniacki after gaining important wins over Japan’s number one Misaki Doi, sixth seed Dominika Cibulkova and Elina Svitolina.
“I’m happy with the way I play at Slams 'cause they're very important to me, but I kind of wish I could transfer the feeling like to the other tournaments”, Osaka had said after her second-round win at the U.S. Open.
Her run in Tokyo gifted Osaka of her career-high ranking of 47th.
Osaka as a ‘real threat’ on WTA Tour?
Different players had recognized Naomi Osaka the status of a big deal for the times to come.
"I have seen her play," Serena Williams told the reporters at 2016 Australian Open. "She's really young and really aggressive. She's a really good, talented player. Very dangerous."
Madison Keys admitted that the more experience had played a huge role in performing her comeback in the final set in New York. "At the end of the match, it kind of came down to experience, being in that situation before, having lost some tough matches," said Keys. "It happens. It just makes you stronger. You kind of just put it in the back of your mind and use it to fuel yourself and get back out there and try to get better."
Keys added that the one against Osaka had been “the biggest comeback of her career”.
Caroline Wozniacki too recognized Osaka as a “major threat” during her press conference in Tokyo, saying that “she has great potential, she’s very young and has a bright future in front of her”.