On 22 July, it was revealed that Naomi Osaka would be playing on Centre Court on the first day of her home Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. The four-time Grand Slam champion has had a tumultuous year in 2021, pulling out of this year’s French Open due to mental health issues, as well as Wimbledon. However, the tennis star still remains one of the world’s most marketable athletes (she even has her own Netflix documentary), although it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Naomi Osaka’s dad, Leonard Francis.
Who is Naomi Osaka’s dad?
Naomi Osaka’s dad is Leonard Francois who stands around 6ft tall and is believed to be in his late 40s.
Leonard met Naomi’s mother, Tamaki Osaka, while he was visiting Hokkaido in Japan while he was a student at New York University.
After meeting sometime in the mid 1990s, Leonard and Tamaki would later have two daughters, Mari and Naomi Osaka, born 18 months apart.
Initially, the family lived in Japan before moving to New York around the year 2000 to live with Leonard’s family.
It was from this point that Leonard became Naomi’s tennis coach (more on that later).
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What nationality is Leonard Francois?
Leonard Francois was born in Jacmel, Haiti. Naomi therefore has Haitian heritage on her father’s side, and Japanese heritage on her mother’s side.
Although she grew up in the US, Naomi’s parents stated early on that she would represent Japan.
They said to the Wall Street Journal: “We made the decision that Naomi would represent Japan at an early age. 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.”
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Leonard’s influence on Naomi and their relationship today
Leonard and Tamaka are still together and reportedly live in Long Island.
Naomi’s father, in particular, had a profound affect on her tennis career as he was her coach from an early age.
Leonard was said to be inspired to teach both his daughters tennis by Richard Williams – Venus and Serena Williams’ father – who famously coached his daughters from an early age too.
It was while watching the Williams sisters at the 1999 French Open that Francois decided to coach Mari and Naomi.
Despite having no tennis experience himself, he emulated Richard’s training methods to incredible success.
François remarked that “the blueprint was already there. I just had to follow it,” with regard to the detailed plan Richard had developed for his daughters
The family later moved to Florida for training opportunities, and Francois still follows his daughters’ training and matches closely.
Speaking about her father’s support, Naomi said: “Yeah, he’s so annoying. Oh, my God [laughter]. Do you hear his on-court coaching? I can’t believe it. He runs up to the bench talking about, Be calm. That’s it. He doesn’t give me any tactics. I can’t believe this. I was so mad [laughter].” She also divulged that he couldn’t watch her play, preferring to catch glimpses on the TV feed.”
Leonard briefly coached Naomi again in 2019 after she parted ways with former coach Jermaine Jenkins. She stated she enjoyed her father’s methods as “he kind of lets me do my own thing, which I like.”