Osaka a Barbie girl, in a tennis world

Sports

Mar 7, 2019; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Naomi Osaka (JPN) answers questions during a press conference at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Jayne Kamin-Oncea

INDIAN WELLS, Calif (Reuters) – Naomi Osaka, whose meteoritic rise to the top of the tennis world over the past year has included two Grand Slam titles and the world number one ranking, on Thursday said the newly unveiled Barbie in her likeness was another big honor.

The 21-year-old told reporters she played with the famous Mattel dolls as a child and was proud to be part of the company’s 60th anniversary campaign, which includes a more racially diverse set of figurines.

“Having that chance to represent people that might not think that they could be represented, that’s a really important goal of mine,” said Osaka, who is the daughter of a Haitian father and a Japanese mother.

Osaka said seeing herself in doll form was also a reminder of how much her life has changed since she won the BNP Paribas Open a year ago to kick off her incredible run.

“It’s a little bit surreal because last year nothing like that would have come my way but this year I have opportunities like that,” said Osaka, who represents Japan but grew up in the U.S.

The top-seeded Osaka, who has posted a picture of the doll on her Twitter feed (twitter.com/Naomi_Osaka_), will begin her title defense on Saturday when she faces Kristina Mladenovic of France.

Reporting by Rory Carroll, editing by Nick Mulvenney

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