The sports season is here! Not only is there a lot of cricket action scheduled but also the grand world event – The Olympics which will finally kick off this week. And keeping that in mind, I decided to watch and review the new Documentary series Naomi Osaka on Netflix. I must admit I am more of a cricket fan and follow very little of tennis. But tennis as a sport is physically and mentally demanding. Firstly it is not a team event(not considering doubles), so you are on your own on the court. Secondly, it requires a mammoth stamina and physical intensity to finish a game. Over the years, there have been games extending upto 11 hours too! In other words, Tennis is a hard sport. And when you get a new player on the blocks, naturally you are excited. This is the documentary on one such player who was the first Asian to be ranked number one in Tennis – Naomi Osaka. Is this documentary worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
The documentary traces the life of Naomi Osaka who won her 1st grand slam in 2018 when she beat Serena Williams at the US Open. The story starts from this point and traces her journey which was indeed a roller coaster with unparalleled highs to some extreme lows too. What I enjoyed about the screenplay was that they did not try to sugercoat anything. And the aspect of tennis mean mentally demanding was nicely explored too. For a then 20 year old to win the first Grand Slam and be crowned world number One is a huge achievement. But with that it also brings with it surmountable amount of expectations which would potentially burden the young shoulders. This definitely showcases exactly that. From the screenplay perspective, on the downside, it just lags in pace a certain moments. Although her journey is inspirational, this documentary may not evoke that feeling in you. This is infact a raw and vulnerable portrayal of a champion and the work that goes on behind the scenes to survive in this sport. But overall, a well penned screenplay.
The three part series traces Naomi Osaka’s journey from first winning the US open in 2018 to finally lifting the trophy in 2020 again. In between lie her struggles. While the first episode did focus on her rise and also gave a sneak peek into her personal life including how she conducted herself after winning to showing her class on court by allowing her opponent to share space with her in an interview, to her relationship with Kobe Bryant who was later killed in a chopper crash. This truely lays a lovely foundation for the path ahead. The second episode deals with her slide in form where tennis becomes a mental game and she has to muster all the expectations which does indeed weigh her down. The third episode deals with the famous “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US and how she uses her platform to reignite that fire in her. The things that were slightly dragging in the second hour nicely pick up in tje third episode that definitely ends the series on a high.
While I am no expert in tennis, if I have to view this from a common man’s gaze, all I can say is that any sport has a lot of pressure and expectations from the fans. We all would have played a sport during our school and college days. The very reason for playing initially was to have fun. But the moment one takes it up as a career, it has a certain level of pressure with it that seems to defeat the purpose for why that person took to that sport for the first time. We recently witnessed a certain section of English fans brutally roasting a 19 year old for missing the match deciiding penalty corner against Italy which is truely ridiculous. At the end of the day Athletes are humans and they are as vulnerable as you and me. So fans like us should try and keep our expectations in check and enjoy the sport for our love of it. Once we do that, we will be able to celebrate any player based on his ability. And that way, we all will be champions of the game.
Naomi Osaka the documentary is a raw and vulnerable portrayal of a champion. Available on Netflix.