German tennis legend Tommy Haas says he knew Naomi Osaka would be a superstar as soon as he saw her play for the first time
tennislegend Tommy Haassays he knew Naomi Osakawould be a superstar the first time he saw her play.
- Speaking with Insider, the former world No. 2 said he first saw the Osaka in action against Maria Sharapova in 2018.
- "We were like saying, 'Wow, this girl is really really good,'" said Haas.
German tennis legend Tommy Haas says he knew Naomi Osaka would be a superstar the first time he ever saw her play.
Speaking with Insider, the former world No. 2 said he first saw the Japanese star in action when she was playing in the first round of the 2018 Indian Wells Masters - a tournament she went on to win to claim her first ever professional title.
"Maria Sharapova, her first tournament back was in Indian Wells after she had been suspended, and she played this Naomi Osaka, who, I have to admit, I hadn't heard as much about yet that at that time," said Haas, who has been the tournament's director since 2016.
"I remember watching this entire match, and it was a very tight game, I think Maria had some chances, but Naomi won that match 6-4, 6-4.
"Some of the shots she was hitting, how flat inside-out forehands and backhands, and her mentality of just being aggressive, and her movement, and especially her serve.
"And we were like saying, 'Wow, this girl is really really good, I think she has a chance of getting far here. Next thing you know, she wins the tournament."
Haas added that despite being impressed with Osaka's tennis, he was surprised how shy she was.
"I hadn't even seen one interview because I'm running around, you know, helping with the event," he said.
"And then the ceremony for her, I remember when she got up to speak and thank everyone, it was almost, a little bit shocking right because I think she was so nervous and it was the first tournament she'd ever won on the tour, and it's such a big one, and she was so shy."
After beating Russian Daria Kasatkina in the final to become the youngest Indian Wells champion in a decade, Osaka went on to win the US Open later that same year, her first of three Grand Slam victories in her career so far.
On Saturday, the 23-year-old will compete for her fourth when she faces American Jennifer Brady in the final of the Australian Open.
Haas says he expects the match to be a tough one, but that he expects Osaka to come out on top.
"She's the favourite because she's won three Slams," he said. "I think physically she trusts her movement, she trust her strokes, so I would give the edge over Jen Brady.
"But at the same time, Brady has nothing to lose, they've played a couple of tight matches [before], even at the US Open last year, in the semis I believe it was, so you just don't know if Brady comes out firing and gets a lot of first serves in, her forehand is good, and she is feisty.
Osaka won the match Haas was referring to in three sets, taking the first 7-6, before Brady won the second 6-3. Osaka took the final set to progress to the final, where she then beat Viktoria Azarenka.
"She is a good competitor, which is huge. Obviously she's so excited and happy to be in the final, but I think she's going to give it everything she's got to try to win her first Slam."
Haas spoke to Insider as part of his new partnership with sports technology and equipment brand Slinger Bag, which is focused on innovating game improvement equipment for ball
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