TOKYO (Reuters) – As the world’s highest paid sportswoman and a three-time Grand Slam champion, Naomi Osaka is no stranger to the spotlight, but ahead of the release of her personalised range of apparel made with sponsors Nike, the 23-year-old was nervous.
“My Nike collection drops tomorrow… nervous is not enough to describe this feeling,” Osaka tweeted before the collection launched on Monday.
In May, Forbes reported Osaka’s 12-month earnings at $37.4 million, giving her the edge over her idol Serena Williams as the highest paid female athlete in history.
Most of Osaka’s income comes from set of lucrative sponsorship deals, including with automaker Nissan, All Nippon Airways and Nike, who signed her to a reported $10 million-a-year deal in 2019.
The release of her own Nike collection, just like her late hero Kobe Bryant, is particularly special.
“I am so happy about this collection,” Osaka told Reuters via email on Thursday.
“I was very involved in the design process. I knew exactly how I wanted the collection to be represented.”
“It’s colourful in a way that represents my heritage and how I communicate my sense of style.”
Heritage is central to everything Osaka does.
Osaka, who was born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, has been an outspoken supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement both in the United States, where she resides, and in Japan.
During her run to a second U.S. Open title in September, Osaka wore a different facemask for each match, each carrying the name of a Black American to highlight racial injustice.
Osaka said her favourite item in the collection is a long-sleeve camo shirt that has the flags of Japan, Haiti and the United States on the sleeve.
“I’m always so happy to celebrate my multicultural background and that’s exactly why we incorporated all three flags,” said
“It’s a celebration of diversity and inclusion and I’m proud to wear them.”
Osaka is currently preparing for January’s Australian Open, a tournament she won in 2019, and the world number three is excited to return to competition after a year disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Things are going really well,” said Osaka. “I’m ready to start competing again.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Lincoln Feast)