Leonard Francois is the father of Naomi Osaka, the professional tennis player, who best Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open Final. He’s dedicated many years of his life working as a tennis coach for his daughters, Mari and Naomi.
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Early life and family
Leonard Max Francois was born in the US, though he is of Haitian descent. His parents spoke only Creole, as they didn’t even know English. Leonard spent his youth in New York, eventually as a student of New York University. It was then when he met the love of his life and the future mother of his daughters, Tamaki Osaka. During one of his vacations from his studying, Leonard went to one of the Japanese islands, among them Hokkaido, where he met Tamaki, and soon understood that he wanted to proceed with a relationship with her.
Tamaki’s Japanese family accused her of dating a black man and bringing disgrace to the whole family, however, Leonard was not afraid of proving he was a good match for his Japanese girlfriend, so after graduating from University, he moved to Osaka, Japan, to live there with Tamaki and to be near her family to show them he was good enough.
Leonard decided to go in for tennis coaching in 1999, when he saw the Williams sisters performing at the French Open tournament. Both his daughters were toddlers those days, but Leonard’s decision was made. He was amazed by their victory in the doubles, and swore to do everything he could to make his daughters the team of the Williams’ kind. Leonard was also encouraged by the fact that the coach of the Williams’ sisters, their father Richard Williams, played no tennis at all in his entire life, although Leonard played tennis quite a lot.
Leonard’s younger daughter, Naomi Osaka, later admitted that the style of their upbringing at the courts was very similar to the one Serena and Venus Williams got from their father. Just as Serena once mentioned that nobody beaten her like Venus did, Naomi also shared that her older sister Mari was her toughest opponent. Leonard later found another coach for both of his daughters, for them to improve their playing level. Leonardo never forgot where he came from, so in 2000 he and his wife built an elementary school in Haiti, which Naomi later visited in 2019. He does a lot of charitable work, helping various funds to develop sports classes for children from low-income families.
Elder daughter, Mari Osaka
Leonard’s elder daughter, Mari Osaka, was born on 3 April 1996, in Osaka Japan. From an early age she was trained in tennis by her father.
She also likes drawing and often shares her pictures and sketches on her Instagram account. She also posts videos of her daily training routine, showing various interesting devices and gadgets which help her to practice and develop the speed, reaction and other skills important for a professional tennis player. Mari’s coach is now Maxime Kouyaté; he took her to the finals of The McLeod for Health Florence Open in 2018. Mari started participating in professional tennis tournaments in 2014, entering Bank of the West Classic, when she partnered Marina Shamayko in the doubles, however, they lost to Ajla Tomljanović and Varvara Lepchenko. Mari then could be seen participating at the 2019 Miami Open, when she played singles by receiving a wildcard into the main draw.
Mari likes travelling; her favorite destinations are Tokyo, Japan, and Paris, France. She likes dogs.
She suffers a lot from many people comparing her to her younger sister who is more successful than Mari; however, she learns how to deal with it, not being depressed and developing her own career and achievements.
Younger daughter, Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka was born on 16 October 1997, in Chūō-ku, Osaka Japan. The questions that she is more than tired of answering is ‘Why is her surname the same as the town she was born in?’: ‘We’re recycling a joke from 2014! Everyone who was born in Osaka, their last name is Osaka’, she joked in her interview to Washington Post in 2018. When Naomi was three years old, her family moved to Long Island, then to Florida, when she was around nine years old. Naomi started playing tennis along with her elder sister, Mari. She worked hard and dreamt of playing against the Williams sisters.
At the age of 15 Naomi started working at the ISP Academy, being coached by Patrick Tauma, then in 2014 with the Harold Solomon Tennis Academy, and then moved to the ProWorld Tennis Academy, improving her skills and getting more opportunities to achieve success.
Naomi won her first WTA Tour match when she was only 16 years old, and became a sensation in the world of sports after beating Serena Williams at the US Open in 2018, while being ranked seventh in the world at that moment. The New Yorker called her ‘the next best player in the world’. In 2019 Naomi won the Australian Open, beating Petra Kvitová, the Czech professional tennis player, in three sets. The same tournament in 2020 was not as successful as Naomi expected it to be, as she lost to Coco Gauff, the American professional tennis player, in the third round.
Controversy around Naomi’s win at the US Open
‘We will never know whether young Osaka really won the 2018 US Open or had it handed to her by a man who was going to make Serena Williams feel his power’, wrote the columnist from the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins. Indeed, the situation which took place during the match between Naomi Osaka and her biggest idol and inspiration, Serena Williams, was outstanding. The Portuguese umpire Carlos Ramos, who served as the chair umpire at the match, gave Serena three code violations. She accused him of stealing the point from her, insisting she was not getting coaching during the match. She also accused him of sexism and racism, but in the end she had to pay the penalty fees for her violations.
Naomi won the game, and the audience was arguing if it was her skill which helped her, or the situation about Serena, which made the latter lose both her temper and the game. At the end of the game Serena congratulated Naomi and looked friendly, smiling at Osaka. However, her true feeling about the game were in fact the opposite, yet not directed at Naomi.
Personal life, wife Tamaki Osaka
Leonard has never separated from his wife, Tamaki Osaka who is a school teacher, since the day they married in 1989. According to the laws of Japan, his daughters took their mother’s surname; the law is also known as Koseki, ie the Japanese Family Registration Law. It says the foreign spouse must join the koseki of his Japanese spouse, and all of their children are to be registered under the surname of the Japanese spouse.
Hobbies, favorite things and interesting facts
Leonard is an avid fan of many kinds of sports, so he spends a lot of time playing tennis and beach volleyball, swimming, etc. He also likes watching basketball matches. Leonard spends a lot of time with his parents, who still live in New York.
Appearance, clothing style
Leonard has black hair and dark brown eyes. His height, weight and vital statistics are not available at the moment, but judging by his photos with his daughter Naomi, who is 5ft 10ins (1.78m) tall, he is a bit shorter than her.
Net worth and salary
As of 2020, Leonard’s net worth is still not reported officially. However, his daughter Naomi Osaka has a net worth estimated at over $29 million.