Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open Speech

Naomi Osaka of Japan won the 2019 Australian Open in dramatic fashion. She beat the Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitová 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 6-4 to become the first woman since 2001 to follow her debut Grand Slam win with another one.

Even after squandering three match points to lose the second set, Osaka fought back in the third to claim the title.

Her acceptance speech at the awards ceremony was delightful. When called to the microphone, Osaka began with a timid “Hello” which elicited good-natured laughter from the audience. She then said, “Sorry, public speaking isn’t really my strong side, um, so I … I just hope I can get through this.”

And she did get through it. She was gracious to Kvitova, appreciative toward the fans, grateful to the Australian Open organization and thankful to her team.

Osaka was clearly nervous and it would be easy to point out all the public speaking mistakes that she made. It would also be churlish to do so. Nobody cares that she was nervous or that she had lots of filler words or that she forgot part of her speech. Indeed, when Osaka said, “I read notes before this but I still forgot the rest of what I’m supposed to say,” she endeared herself to the crowd even more.

There is a lesson in Osaka’s speech for public speakers of any level. If your words are sincere and you just be yourself, people will overlook most any public speaking misstep. And even if they don’t, a bad speech will not define you.

Osaka is only 21. She will be a tennis powerhouse for years to come. She will undoubtedly have other opportunities to give speeches after winning tournaments. I think that her speaking skills, like her tennis skills, will just get better. Let’s see what she says next time.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
This entry was posted in Analysis of a Speech, Motivation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Naomi Osaka’s Australian Open Speech

  1. As always John; superb, appropriate, and relevant article. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    QUOTE There is a lesson for novice speakers in Osaka’s speech. If your words are sincere and you just be yourself, people will overlook most any public speaking misstep. And even if they don’t, a bad speech will not define you. UNQUOTE

    a similar argument is equally valid at the other end of the novice-expert speaker spectrum.

    Patti Smith knew, loved, and sang the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” for decades … and yet, at the Bob Dylan / Literature Nobel Prize Ceremony, she stumbled / forgot them.
    What followed was “sincere words”, “she stayed herself”, and if anything the event further endeared her to the world. To some extent, I believe it even redefined her more favorably.

    Sincerity almost always trumps sensationalism and expertise.

    When I watched Patti Smith’s performance, I remember thinking,
    “This will happen to me some day too. I will inevitably find myself in a situation where unfamiliarity, uncertainly, and anxiety will prevail over planning, practice and expertise. It is simply going to happen some day. I will simply have to handle the inevitable drama/trauma when the time comes.”

    Looking forward to your future articles

    You/your readers may enjoy, and find instructive, Patti Smith’s recall of the incident. Superb article.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Great comment, Rashid. I remember watching Smith’s performance and forgetting the lyrics and I had the same feeling. (As an aside, I still do not understand why Dylan himself did not go to get the award but that is another conversation.)

      And you are right. This is a lesson for speakers of any level, not just novices. Accordingly, I have changed the operative sentence to read as follows: “There is a lesson in Osaka’s speech for public speakers of any level.”

      Thanks for pointing out my oversight, Rashid. I always appreciate your comments.

  2. Chris says:

    Very true John, a sincere speech will trump a pompous display anytime (did I just say trump).

    I was helping a novice Toastmaster on his 2nd speech one time over coffee and he was nervous and anxious as I mentally noted things I could suggest, but my thoughts along those lines froze as I listened to him reliving his experience of being in an 8 floor building on the 5th floor during a force 9 earthquake in Japan.

    I wasn’t there on the night he presented the speech to the club, but he won best speech of the night.

    Keep up the good work and come out for a paddle on the harbour next time you are in Sydney Australia.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Great story, Chris. Thanks for sharing. And I will take you up on your offer if I ever make it back to Sydney. I have fond memories of visiting many years ago. We stayed with friends in Epping. Our first full day, we went into Sydney and had lunch at the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. I just remember sitting in that glorious sunshine eating prawns and drinking an ice cold Boag’s Beer with the Harbour Bridge on one side and the Opera House on the other. A stunning location. I need to arrange a speaking tour in Australia!

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