"I truly think it gave me strength."

By Alicia Brunker
Sep 13, 2020 @ 2:13 pm
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Naomi Osaka just won her second U.S. Open title on Saturday, and she's crediting her late mentor, Kobe Bryant, for the recent victory.

Following her final match against Victoria Azarenka, the rising tennis star took to Instagram, posting a photo of herself in the basketball player's Los Angeles Lakers jersey while holding her new trophy. "I wore this jersey every day after my matches. I truly think it gave me strength. Always," she wrote alongside yellow and purple heart emojis, which match the Lakers' team colors.

During the post-match press conference, Osaka revealed to reporters that she hopes to continue to make Bryant proud. "I just want to be the type of person that he thought I was going to be," she said, adding that he's always believed in her ability since they first met in 2019. "He thought I was going to be great, so hopefully I will be great in the future."

She continued, "Only time will tell." Bryant — who passed way in a helicopter crash earlier this year — has plenty to be proud of. Osaka not only claimed her second U.S. Open championship, but also won her her third major title in the sport, joining the likes of Venus and Serena Williams, Angelique Kerber, and Kim Clijsters — at just 22 years old.

After Bryant's tragic death, Osaka wrote a heartbreaking letter to the NBA legend, addressing him as her big bro, mentor, and inspiration. “Hey… I don’t really know what to do so I’m writing you this letter,” she began the emotional note. “Thank you for being you. Thank you for inspiring people everywhere, you have no idea how many hearts you’ve touched. Thank you for being so humble and not acting as big as you are.” Naomi went on to recall how Kobe would check in on her after "hard losses."

"Thank you for randomly texting me ‘You ok?’, cause you know how f—-d up my head is sometimes. Thank you for teaching me so much in the short time I’ve been lucky enough to have known you. Thank you for existing,” she continued. “You will forever be my big bro/mentor/inspiration. Love you.”