Naomi Osaka is preparing for the U.S. Open by teaming up with Takashi Murakami. The limited-edition Yonex silhouette was designed by Murakami with Murakami’s cherry blossom motif atop a base of white. The racket has Naomi’s name in black on the throat, with kangaroo silhouettes on both sides. We’ve never done something like it before so it was a challenge to us to make it.
“Naomi and Takashi created an amazing design,” Yonex’s Toru hiraga describes the partnership. Although the racket will not be for sale, a small number of rackets will go up for auction with proceeds going to Play Academy with Naomi Osaka (PANO).
“Takashi Murakami is an artist I love and we first contacted each other via Instagram several years ago. When we were talking about something interesting, I suggested that we collaborate on my racket to the U.S. Open. And here we are!”, says Naomi Osaka.
Here is the short interview about this collaboration:
I: How was it like working with Takashi? And how did you come up with the idea of using cherry blossoms as a design element?
N: It was great fun. Due to the pandemic, logistics proved difficult so we communicated mostly on LINE and Zoom. Although it was a collaborative effort, I must give Takashi the majority of the credit. We came up with the motif that he used, which is his flower and my Naomi Osaka bear logo. Both of us are very excited about this. He asked me my favorite flower and I replied cherry blossoms. Then he returned with some cool ideas. We just kept going.”, says Naomi.
I: Which of his artworks or characters are your favorites?
N: We realized we had much in common once we began to talk. He’s a kind of a Japanese super-progressive person, who has been equally influenced from the west and east. He is a popular figure across the world because of that. His smiling flower is my favorite work. I was gifted a pillow with the smiling flower by him years ago. It’s still one my most treasured possessions.
I: What are your personal goals for the U.S. Open games?
N: I love New York and want to have fun. After the U.S. Open, the tennis season will continue for approximately a month. I’m likely to take a vacation with friends.