CHENNAI: Garrett Bradley’s latest Netflix outing, the docu-series “Naomi Osaka,” follows the award-winning US director’s Oscar nomination for another documentary, “Time,” earlier this year.
Osaka, born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, is a professional tennis player who, at just 23, is the first Asian to hold the top singles ranking, and also the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion. She became the first woman to win consecutive Grand Slam singles events since Serena Williams in 2015.
However, this three-part docu-series shows that Osaka’s path has not been all roses. Shy to the point of sometimes appearing aloof, she once revealed that she has been battling depression since her first major tournament in the US in 2018.
The segments titled “Rise,” “Champion Mentality” and “New Blueprint” focus on Osaka’s recent difficulties.
In May, she withdrew from the French Open after officials fined her $15,000 for failing to attend a post-match press conference. She had said before the game that she would not do so because of mental health problems, adding that reporters’ harsh questions after a loss felt like “kicking a person while they are down.”
In June, she also skipped Wimbledon to spend time with family and friends.
Osaka rarely talks about her boyfriend, Cordae, a two-time Grammy-nominated rapper. He once told an interviewer: “We were dating for almost a year before people knew about us. We don’t really post intimate moments because I feel as though they’re sacred. Once you let outside influences in, it becomes less sacred.”
Despite a doting boyfriend and supportive family, Osaka has said that the thought of who she is off the court distresses her.
“For so long I’ve tied winning to my worth as a person. What am I if I’m not a good tennis player?” The death of her friend and mentor Kobe Bryant pushed her deeper into self-questioning.
Now, as she prepares to play at the Tokyo Olympics, Osaka is the subject of an intimate portrait by Bradley that reveals the star’s human side.
Often, the sound of the ball being hit and Osaka’s graceful, dance-like movements are a treat to watch, even for those who may not be big fans of the game. She is the queen of the court, but singles tennis can be lonely and, for someone as sensitive as Osaka, often challenging.
Bradley’s docu-series is highly artistic and benefits from a magical score by Devonté Hynes and Theodosia Roussos.