In Japan, Naomi Osaka is arguably almost as big a star off the court as she is on it, and that especially holds true after her triumph at the Australian Open this past weekend which made her the first ever Asian tennis player to hold a number one world ranking. While her accomplishments are being celebrated as the pride and joy of Japan, her brief interaction with an interviewer after her victory has been landing her even more praise.

Born in Japan to a Haitian father and a Japanese mother and having lived in the United States since she was three years old, Osaka's understandably imperfect Japanese has always been spotlighted by the Japanese media. In Japan, her efforts to communicate in limited Japanese are often praised as cute and funny, along with her affable character. Some Japanese television programs tend to spend longer segments highlighting snippets of her speaking in Japanese and fawning over things as simple as her enjoying Japanese food like katsudon in interviews than covering her tennis matches.

However, in a recent interview following her Australian Open victory (broadcast on Japanese television and in which Osaka was paired with an English to Japanese language interpreter), a Japanese reporter's question "Petra Kvitova is a left-handed player. I'm sure it must have been difficult to match up with that. Can you just tell us just how difficult it was and how you felt about it in Japanese?" was met with criticism by many in Japan.

In response, Osaka replies with a somewhat resigned but insistent "I'm going to say it in English," clearly and understandably not wanting to navigate an honest response in a language she hasn't mastered. Many on Japanese Twitter seem to not only be happy with her decision to answer in English, but also reprimanding the media's fascination with asking she speak in Japanese for their entertainment.

"To be honest, Japanese announces telling Naomi Osaka "Please speak in Japanese" are rude. Outside of the fact that there is an interpreter, she has the right to express herself in the language she wants to. I think Japanese people needs to understand it's in bad taste to force her to speak in a language she's not great at for their own amusement."

"Some would say they're forcing her to speak in a language she's not fluent in to appeal to the Japanese "kawaii" standard character."

"It's harassment. Nobody asks Otani (Shohei) to answer in English."

Comments on Japanese social media seem to reflect a growing sentiment of exhaustion with the limited viewpoint of depicting Osaka as a cute and perhaps infantilized character straddled between Japanese nationality and the appeal of a foreigner, especially as her popularity in Japan is growing due to appreciation for her on the court abilities and representation of Japan on the world stage. While there's certainly nothing wrong with finding Osaka's own character to be cute, hopefully narratives around that going forward are less forced and balanced by an appreciation of how she views her own identity.

By - Big Neko.