Abdul Sillah is hardly a household name in the sports world. At a time when Donald Trump is telling people of color to go back where they came from, it’s noteworthy that Sillah arrived in the United States from Sierra Leone.
AOC discovered Sillah reading Allure Magazine’s August 2019 cover story featuring rising tennis star Naomi Osaka. Lensed for Allure by Wai Lin Tse, Naomi Osaka didn’t know that she would be eliminated at July 2019 Wimbledon in her first round, losing to Yulia Putlintseva.
Unlike Serena Williams, whose powerful muscles dominate the pages of fashion shoots, Osaka’s do not. Sillah has trained both women, giving him a comparative lens into the superb two athletes.
Allure opens their cover story Naomi Osaka Wants to Win More Than Anyone Else with Brennan Kilbane’s observation:
“Naomi Osaka serves a tennis ball at a speed of 125 miles per hour. I do not need to tell you that this is nuts fast: 125 miles per hour is almost twice the maximum speed of an adult cheetah as it bounds across the savanna toward the jugular of a gazelle; 125 miles per hour is as fast as a Bugatti Veyron coming at you at 125 miles per hour from across a tennis court.”
Fitness coach Sillah chats with Kilbane on the bench, calling his client Osaka the “Baby-Faced Assassin.” Serena was “the Closer”, as “fury coursed through her veins from the moment she set foot on the court until the moment she set foot on the podium”.
Sillah, “whose voice is softer than a chinchilla wrapped in Egyptian cotton” summarizes Osaka’s style differently. “Nothing about her gives warning of the existence of several reserves of rage bubbling just under the surface of her skin, and by the time she sends a 125-mile-per-hour tennis ball directly at you, it is too late, and rest in peace.”
No longer ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis — but holding at No. 2 inspire of Wimbledon — Osaka is facing many mental and emotional challenges at age 21. In fact, her immense physical prowess is not delivering, causing John McEnroe to wonder aloud at Wimbledon if Osaka’s large numbers of business and endorsement contracts, coupled with her celeb status, have become a distraction. (Note that tennis great Billie Jean King wondered if Serena also has too many irons in the fire.)
Add to this tennis celebrity brew, 15-year-old Coco Gauff, whose wildcard entry at Wimbledon warmed hearts far and ride. The 15-year-old American from Atlanta rose 172 places to world No.141 in post Wimbledon rankings, from No.313 before the tournament.
Learn more about Naomi Osaka’s personal history at Allure. But note also that the least of Osaka’s current real-world concerns is ‘Allure’ question 1: What’s your best beauty tip? Naomi proceeds to deliver a series of canned beauty answers promoting her role as a brand ambassador for Shiseido, which owns Anessa and Bare Minerals.
That’s a mighty tricky tightrope Naomi Osaka is navigating in a world demanding authenticity in its stars.
In a real-world where our teen suicide rate is skyrocketing and superficial pressures dominate in our Instagram-life world, Naomi doesn’t touch any topic including her emotional moments beating Serena last September and subsequent followup communications with Williams. Nor does she reflect in any way around pressures on the court or being downgraded after losing matches she should have won in 2019.
For the real-deal story about Serena and Naomi, turn to the infinitely meatier (I blame this on the writer, not Osaka) Serena Williams interview in American Vogue’s August 2019 cover story.