People in Japan slam the reporter’s request and rush to the tennis pro’s defence.

Naomi Osaka won the Australian Open on the weekend, in a nail-biting three-set match against two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, making her the first Asian tennis player ever to become world number one.

The American-raised half-Japanese half-Haitian Japanese national has won support from fans around the world and also here in her birth country, where people seem fascinated by her mixed background and curious about her ability to speak Japanese.

▼ Osaka’s family isn’t conventional by Japanese standards.

So when the 21-year-old tennis pro gave an interview on Japanese TV live from Melbourne following her Australian Open win, Osaka was once again pressed to speak in Japanese, but this time she stood her ground and shut the reporter down immediately. In the clip below, one of the Japanese TV presenters can be heard saying “Congratulation” in English, before going on to ask in Japanese:

“Yesterday’s match, against Petra Kvitova, a left-handed player, must’ve been difficult to counter. Could you tell us, in Japanese, how difficult it was to deal with? Just one word about how you felt.”

Take a look at Osaka’s polite but firm response below:

Osaka refused to be swayed by the reporter’s request, prefacing her answer with “I’m going to say it in English.” After all, the reporter’s question was one that required more than just a one-word answer, in English or Japanese, and people in Japan are applauding Osaka’s firm but polite reply.

Twitter user @bettybeat, who posted the clip, wrote:

“I’m genuinely sick of reporters always saying “Please speak in Japanese” when they interview Naomi Osaka, but her firm ‘I’m going to say it in English’ stance saved me.”

@bettybeat wasn’t the only one to feel this way, with other Japanese Twitter users chiming in with comments like:

“Osaka has said before that she’s not great at getting her point across in Japanese, so she wants to speak in English to avoid possible misunderstandings. Why can’t we just let her speak in whatever language she wants to speak in?”
“I’m also disgusted by the media, but Osaka’s firm response was spoken like a true champion.”
“Osaka emigrated to the United States with her family when she was three years old so it’s normal for her to speak English. If she doesn’t speak in English, then you won’t get to understand the true meaning of Osaka!”
“I’m so sick of the Japanese media always playing up the ‘wonderful Japanese’ side of her. She’s great, regardless of her background.”
“I don’t like the media doing this. It’s like they want to force her to speak in broken Japanese, just so people can call it cute or interesting and feel great about being Japanese. She’s a respected athlete and should be treated as such.”

Radio Donuts, a Saturday-morning Japanese radio program airing on Tokyo commercial radio station J-Wave, also weighed in on the issue, running a poll asking their Twitter followers to answer the question: “What do you think about Naomi Osaka being asked to comment in Japanese?” 97 people responded with the answer that they thought it was good, while 1,648 people were opposed to it.

It should be noted that Osaka has spoken in Japanese on TV before, and even gave a short message in Japanese to another news outlet during the same round of interviews on Sunday.

This video catches the last part of her message to fans, where she says, “Minna konnichiwa. Kono taikai wa honto ni chotto nanka chotto bikkurishita. Demo, nanka kachimashita.” (“Hello everyone. This match was really, a bit, like, I was surprised. But somehow I won.“)

While Osaka is happy to speak in Japanese when asked if she has a message for her Japanese fans, she takes an entirely different approach when it comes to answering technical questions about the sport to interviewers searching for a soundbite.

And as her Japanese fans applaud her for her champion attitude against reporters who should know better, we can only hope that she’ll stop being pressed for more Japanese-language soundbites in future. She is who she is, and now that she’s Asia’s first World number one tennis player, she’s showing us all a different side to what it means to be Japanese.

Source: My Game News Flash
Featured image: Twitter/@bettybeat

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