Play Academy with Naomi Osaka has provided a scholarship to 9-year-old budding talent Uma from Cameroon to help her realize her potential in her favorite sport of tennis.
The scholarship allows Uma to attend the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Nice, France, where she has had the opportunity to train at state-of-the-art facilities, receive professional coaching guidance and engage with other junior talents.
The support is in line with Naomi Osaka’s desire to open doors for girls who do not have the same opportunities she had to become a multi-Grand Slam champion, entrepreneur, social advocate and role model for people across the globe.
Play Academy with Naomi Osaka was launched in 2020 in Japan to get more girls moving through grant-making, capacity building trainings to local sport-based organizations; and emphasizing fun, positive experiences for girls and coaches who are trained in gender-inclusivity. The initiative has since expanded to Haiti and Los Angeles, all places Osaka has a close connection to. So far, Play Academy has supported more than 10 grassroot programs that are using sport to level the playing field for girls.
Play Academy’s individual scholarship fund for Uma is the first of its kind, with Osaka “hoping to provide an opportunity on a personal level.”
“I know how impactful playing sport at an early age can be, especially for girls who don’t have equal opportunities as boys, whether it’s because of the lack of access, a safe playing environment, financial situations or simply being aware of the opportunities and possibilities out there,” Osaka said.
“I felt so humbled and moved when I heard Uma’s story and how watching me play inspired her, even all the way in Cameroon. So I wanted to see what I could do to help her realize her potential.
“The Mouratoglou Tennis Academy has a wonderful reputation of working with various talents and helping them develop on and off the court. I am glad they were open to partnering with Play Academy in supporting Uma and giving her a unique opportunity to explore her potential on the court, but most importantly, off the court.”
Uma said: “I want to say thank you, Naomi Osaka, for making this experience possible at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy. My forehand has improved a lot after one year, and I have learned a lot of discipline like following a schedule and sticking to it, and also how to stay focused, especially when I feel afraid on the tennis court.”
Founded by 10-time Grand Slam champion and world renowned tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou in France, the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy is a training base for the world’s best ATP and WTA players. It offers training programs, tennis camps and personalized coaching for all levels to bring the best out of every athlete.
Uma’s coach at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy Dario Gioffre said: “My first impression with Uma was ‘This is unreal.’ You don’t see a 9-year-old hitting that well and being so athletic on the court. I was shocked, in a very positive way, and at the same time I felt a sense of immediate responsibility to work with such potential.”
“The two qualities that come to mind when I think about Uma is happiness,” Gioffre continued. “She’s always smiling and I believe nothing great can be done without happiness. She has one of the nicest smiles you can see. And curiosity. She’s a happy and curious person. She always has questions and is eager to learn.”
“There’s a whole continent to explore. There’s a whole continent to develop. I strongly believe tennis is a sport for everyone and for life. Tennis is a developing tool. It can do so much for kids, for communities. Giving Uma this opportunity is hopefully one of the steps to bring tennis to everyone.”
About Mouratoglou Tennis Academy
Started by 10-time Grand Slam champion and world renowned tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou, the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy is a training base for the world’s best ATP and WTA players. It offers training programs, tennis camps and personalized coaching for all levels to bring the best out of every athlete.
About Play Academy with Naomi Osaka
Play Academy with Naomi Osaka aims to change girls’ lives through play and sport in Haiti, Los Angeles and Japan. Through grant making and capacity-building training; the program emphasizes fun, positive experiences for girls and coaches who are trained in gender-inclusivity.