'Having that chance to represent people that might not think that they could be represented, that's a really important goal of mine'
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 honour’.
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.
“A lot of parents of biracial kids, whenever they see me, they come up to me and sometimes they cry, they always say that their kid looks up to me and I feel like that’s a big responsibility,” she said. “But it’s also an honor because I feel like I’m representing not only me but a bunch of other kids that maybe wouldn’t have gotten that chance to be represented.
"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 US
The top-seeded Osaka, who has posted a picture of the doll on her Twitter feed will begin her title defense on Saturday when she faces Kristina Mladenovic of France.