Tennis star Naomi Osaka, who was named the best athlete in women’s sports at the ESPYS on July 10, set very important boundaries earlier this year. To protect her mental health, the four-time Grand Slam champion announced she would not be doing any interviews at the French Open. “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one,” the 23-year-old said at the time. As a result, she was fined $15,000 for not participating and she backed out of the tournament altogether.
Osaka explained that players are often forced to answer the same questions repeatedly, which can plant seeds of doubt. “I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me,” she added. That’s a rule she follows in her personal life, too. For two years, Osaka has been dating 23-year-old Cordae Amari Dunston. The famous rapper, previously known as YBN Cordae, has been one of her most ardent supporters. And while Osaka is a pro at keeping her cool on the court, the same cannot be said for Cordae, who has been seen passionately cheering on Osaka from the stands.
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The two-time Grammy-nominated rapper told GQ that his love story with the No. 2 tennis player in the world, who is also the highest-paid female athlete, began when they exchanged numbers in 2019. Soon enough, they went on their first date to a Clipper’s game. The rest was history.
“We were dating for almost a year before people knew about us. ... We don’t really post intimate moments, because I feel as though they’re sacred. ... Once you let outside influences get into it, it becomes less sacred.”
But as they continued getting to know each other, they decided to keep things private. “We were dating for almost a year before people knew about us. So we kind of move very reclusively,” Cordae told the magazine. “We don’t really post intimate moments, because I feel as though they’re sacred. A relationship is really a sacred thing. Once you let outside influences get into it, it becomes less sacred.”
While the duo may have been on different pages about tennis, they have a lot in common — including their music taste. “He also introduces me to a lot of older music,” Osaka said. “Songs I remember my parents listening to. I’m not sure if he’s going to kill me for saying that.” Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Michael Jackson are among the many legendary artists they both enjoy. “Growing up, I feel like I just heard the hits, you know what I mean?” she continued. “It’s a really interesting thing about him. He knows the whole catalog of everyone. I feel like the knowledge that he has about his craft and his passion is so much more vast than mine.”
The couple has also been very vocal about their support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Cordae reportedly protested outside of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home last summer following Breonna Taylor’s death. The tennis star, for her part, showed her support for the movement by wearing masks that featured the names of Black Americans killed by police. She also posted a heartfelt message on Instagram. “Before I am a, athlete, I am a Black woman,” she wrote. “I’m exhausted of having a new hashtag pop up every few days and I’m extremely tired of having this same conversation over and over again.”
The tennis star is nothing if not transparent, and when she announced that she wouldn’t be playing at the French Open in May, Cordae proved that she has his support. “I think now the best thing for the tournament, the other players and my well-being is that I withdraw,” Osaka wrote in a lengthy social media post. She also added that she would “never trivialize mental health” and that she has “suffered long bouts of depression” since 2018. When she revealed that she apologized to tournament officials, Cordae popped into the comments. “No need to apologize to ANYBODY!” he wrote, according to Good Housekeeping.
Those who are interested in seeing more of Osaka and Cordae’s relationship might be in luck. because Netflix released a three-part docuseries titled Naomi Osaka: Playing By Her Own. According to Netflix, the doc will “follow Osaka during a historic two years in which she works on her game but also begins to find her voice,” and it will also explore her involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, the impact of Kobe Bryant’s death, and yes, her relationships with her family and friends. Naomi Osaka: Playing By Her Own started streaming on July 16.