• Andy Marston

It's all aces for athlete-activist Osaka.

There was an added layer of rivalry when Naomi Osaka met Serena Williams at a recent exhibition match in Adelaide. It is no longer just the battle of two superstar tennis players, but the “Showdown of NWSL owners.”

That’s because Osaka has now joined the ownership group of North Carolina Courage. The move shows Osaka’s motivations to emulate the 23-time Grand-Slam winner also apply off-the-court: To inspire the next generation of female athletes and support social causes. Having previously used her platform to support the Black Lives Mattermovement, she has since attracted new sponsors and increased her appeal as an investor. “I am thrilled to welcome Naomi as an owner of the North Carolina Courage,” said Steve Malik, Chairman of the North Carolina Courage. “Naomi embodies the values we have been striving to cultivate at our club, and she brings an invaluable viewpoint on topics beyond sports.” In doing so, she joins a number of other superstar athletes who have become involved in sports ownership in recent years. WNBA star Candace Parker, gold-medallist skier Lindsey Vonn, and Williams, as previously mentioned, were all investors in NWSL expansion franchise Angel City last summer. None are as young and ahead of the game at Osaka at 23 years old.

She is the brilliant embodiment of a new era of athletes – who are both socially and business aware. And with news coming out of the NBA, we can expect more young athletes to soon follow in her tracks.