Osaka has a special link with Singapore: Melissa Pine
US Open champion won the Rising Stars event here in 2015 and Li Na's pick as the 'next superstar' in tennis is set to return for a grand battle
Naomi Osaka captured the hearts of fans in Singapore in 2015 when she won the WTA Rising Stars Invitational, an event that showcased the brightest youngsters of the WTA.
Osaka defeated Caroline Garcia in a nail-biting final and afterwards was over the moon when she took a photo in the locker room with Venus Williams.
She said after her win that being in "Singapore is really special because it's a tournament for the top players in the world, and so I feel like a top person even though I'm not really".
Fast forward three years and Osaka has become a "top person".
Currently third in the Porsche Race to Singapore, fans are looking forward to her return for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global from Oct 21-28, this time as one of the world's top eight women's players.
One person who is not surprised by Osaka's success is two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na.
In an interview for Laureus in July, Li Na, the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam singles title when she captured the French Open in 2011, was asked to pick the next superstar in tennis.
"I would like to pick Naomi Osaka," she said. "I think she is very good and will be the next superstar."
Li Na and many others saw it coming.
Singapore is really special because it's a tournament for the top players in the world, and so I feel like a top person even though I'm not really.Naomi Osaka, after winning the WTA Rising Stars Invitational in Singapore in 2015
Having won the WTA Premier event in Indian Wells in March, defeating Serena Williams no less along the way, there was no doubt that Osaka's poise, accuracy and hard-hitting groundstrokes would take her to elite status.
With her maiden Grand Slam title - the US Open - under her belt, Osaka is poised to qualify for the first time for the season-ending tournament in Singapore.
How exciting it is for Asian fans to have another role model to carry the torch for the next generation.
The Japanese, who turns 21 on Oct 16, has a pleasant, authentic and down-to-earth nature that makes her a great ambassador for our sport.
We look forward to welcoming her as she bids to finish her stellar season on a high at the Indoor Stadium next month.
Melissa Pine is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and the tournament director of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global. She is also a former NCAA player at Washington State University and served as assistant coach of the team post-graduation. To find out more about the WTA Finals, visit www.wtafinals.com