Naomi Osaka may be the new World No.1 but she still feels there’s plenty more to offer – after her stunning victory over Petra Kvitova in Melbourne on Saturday.
And the though of being the first player from Asia to top the men’s or women’s tennis rankings doesn’t faze her either.
“I feel like I’m literally just still learning,” the 21-year-old Osaka said.
“Everyone kind of adjusts to being No. 1 in a different way.”
Sitting on a beach outside Melbourne, toes sifting through the sand, with trophy in hand, Osaka looks calm and collected, and her meteoric rise – with two consecutive Grand Slams to her name – hasn’t affected her demeanour.
Shy by nature off the court, her aggressive style on it has certainly won many friends.
Can she stay there for the next instalment in Paris in May?
Simona Halep would hope not. Her 48-week stay atop the WTA rankings ended yesterday as she slid to No. 3 after a fourth-round loss to Serena Williams.
“The main goal is just to play as good as I can every match, to win every match I play, so the ranking doesn’t really matter,” Halep quipped.
The cool Romanian won’t let the numbers game get to her. “I will not stress myself about this,” she said.
For Osaka, the Melbourne victory saw her rise three places.
She was born in Japan – her mother is Japanese, her father is Haitian – and she moved to the US when she was 3. She has dual citizenship and now is based in Florida.
She has become the youngest woman to reach top spot since Caroline Wozniacki did it at 20 years of age in 2010.
“The ranking was never my goal,” she said. “It was to win this tournament.”
Runner-up at Melbourne, Kvitova, jumped from No. 6 to No. 2. Sloane Stephens is at No. 4, and Karolina Pliskova has moved from No. 8 to No. 5. Williams’ quarterfinal run has seen her move up five places to No. 11.
Surprises? Yes … semifinalist Danielle Collins climbed from No. 35 to No. 23.
In the men’s Novak Djokovic’s record seventh Australian Open title keeps him at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, with Rafael Nadal at No. 2.
But Roger Federer’s fourth-round exit saw him drop from No. 3 down to No. 6. 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who beat Federer, jumped to a career-best ranking of No. 12. For Djokovic the task now is to reel Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 grand slam singles crowns.
And a day after his Open win he was already looking ahead to surpassing Federer as the most successful player the men’s game has ever seen.
“I am aware that making history of the sport that I truly love is something special. Of course, it motivates me,” he said.
“Playing grand slams, biggest ATP events, is my utmost priority in this season and in seasons to come.
“How many seasons are to come? I don’t know. I’m not trying to think too much advance.
“I do want to definitely focus myself on continuing to improve my game and maintaining the overall wellbeing that I have – mental, physical, emotional – so I would be able to compete at such a high level for the years to come, and have a shot at eventually getting closer to Roger’s record.”