Japanese-Haitian tennis star Naomi Osaka opens up about her father’s homeland, the power of a good circle and why she’s OK with being shy.

On a November weeknight at Port-au-Prince’s Triomphe theater, a tall, slender young woman in a flowered dress stood in a crowd, music blaring as the troupe from the Ballet Bacoulou d’Haiti danced on stage above the dignitaries and concertgoers who formed a circle around her.

At least a dozen cell phones hung in the air from outstretched arms, thumbs pressed to capture selfies with her from so many angles it was impossible to know where to look. A throng of photographers and camera crews stood just outside the circle, lenses all pointed at her.

Naomi Osaka looked mortified.

The face of the Boca Raton 21-year-old of Japanese-Haitian descent, now ranked the No. 1 tennis player in the world, was frozen in a pasted-on half-smile and wide-eyed glare behind her aviator glasses. She held, in that moment, the expression of someone who wished she could disappear.

“I don’t really leave my bubble to be honest,” Osaka said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post Wednesday. “It’s not even that I want to be like this. I just think that I’m really shy, so I don’t really think about venturing out.”

The past few months, however, have offered her few opportunities to hide.

Although Thursday marked one year since Osaka’s first win over Serena Williams in an early round of last year’s Miami Open, her sudden transformation into an international icon came months later with one of last year’s biggest upsets — her New York victory over her idol in September’s U.S. Open. Continue reading

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